Player Analysis: Lance Stephenson
May 24, 2011
LOOKING BACK: A prolific high school player who left college after one season in which he earned Big East Rookie of the Year honors at Cincinnati, Stephenson experienced something completely new and foreign in 2010-11 -- sitting on the bench. It proved a humbling and challenging experience for the extremely talented but extremely raw player from New York. Stephenson did not play at all in the first 57 games but interim coach Frank Vogel gave him a look in March. Stephenson played in seven straight games, averaging 13.1 minutes and produced 4.6 points and 2.7 assists with .387 shooting from the field. The Pacers lost six of those seven, however, and Stephenson would play only limited minutes thereafter.
LOOKING AHEAD: Stephenson's biggest problems came in containing a brash personality that sometimes rubbed veteran teammates, not to mention coaches, the wrong way. Late in the season, Vogel publicly demoted him to No. 4 on the depth chart at point guard -- behind previously banished veteran T.J. Ford -- in what was described as a disciplinary move. Team President Larry Bird continued to show confidence in Stephenson in his postseason press conference, suggesting the lack of leadership in the locker room contributed to the problems. Stephenson has undeniable talent to go with an NBA-ready body but needs to work on his shooting stroke, not to mention his humility, in the offseason.
KEY STATS: Stephenson's best stretch of the season came on a three-game road trip to Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston in early March. He totaled 18 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds in 54 minutes while making 6-of-17 shots. In his other nine outings, he totaled 19 points, five assists, 13 rebounds and 7-of-22 shooting in 61 minutes.
CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through the 2011-12 season.
OUTLOOK: It's easy to see the impact a 6-5, 210-pound point guard that can get to the basket at will could have on the Pacers, particularly if he can develop a more consistent mid-range jump shot as a complement. But building strong relationships with teammates, developing trust, learning tendencies, are more vital to a point guard than any other position on the floor. If Stephenson is to begin to fulfill his enormous potential, the Pacers will need to see more maturity and better judgment on and off the court.