Stephenson and the Future of the Indiana Pacers

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    Jan 05, 2014
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Stephenson and the Future of the Indiana Pacers Photo by Lemmy Morrie

After steadily improving over the last two seasons, the Indiana Pacers are looking primed for a shot at a title this year. They not only have the best defense in the NBA but their offense has improved by leaps that it is hard to pinpoint a weakness in their game. They can win games in different ways. They can put up points in bunches and if the shots aren't falling, they have their defense that chokes opposing teams into submission.

There are two factors that have greatly contributed to the Pacers offense. The first one is the improved bench. In the past, this was a huge liability of the team who couldn't get things going without their starters. During the recent off-season, this was remedied by acquiring players like Luis Scola who can hold their own against the better opposition.

The second factor to the improved offense is the individual development of the several players on the team. Roy Hibbert who was mostly considered a one-way defensive centerhas a much improved post game. Paul George has further elevated his offensive game that when he gets it going, he looks simply unstoppable. Then there's Lance Stephenson whose  growth and amplified value to the team is giving the Pacers front office something to think about.

As the fourth year guard continues to show his improvement in his last year of contract, his price is also steadily increasing. While his evolving game is a welcome sight for the Pacers, his increased price tag presents a hurdle come next season.

The Pacers already have around $64 million committed to salary for next season. With the salary cap for the 2014-15 season anticipated to be around $62 million excluding exceptions, the team is left with little wiggle room if they wish to sign Stephenson. With Danny Granger's contract also set to expire after this season, the Pacers will have to choose between the two.

Obviously, the Pacers can opt to go beyond the salary cap and pay luxury. However, with the team being in a smaller market compared to other luxury tax paying teams, that will only happen if the management believes the added expense is going to give them a very good chance at a title.

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