Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Transformation of Lance Stephenson

Indiana Pacers Fourth-year Shooting Guard Lance  Stephenson is putting up career highs in points, rebounds, and assists per game, not to mention a career-high %49.9 field goal percentage. 

Stephenson's rookie year was a disaster and he was the worst player on the team, playing in just 12 games and scoring just 3.1 points per game and 1.8 assists per game, to go with a less-than-mediocre 33.3 field goal percentage. 

He had a very underwhelming sophomore season as well, although his shooting percentage increased to %37.6.

 I, like many other Pacers fans, was hoping he would be released during the offseason. He had been known (and still is known) to be a hothead who can get into trouble with officials and fellow players. 

But then Indiana's best player, Danny Granger, went down to a season-ending knee injury during the preseason and the Pacers needed a new starter. 

Vice President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird had always kept faith in Stephenson, and he (Stephenson) was a starter to start the season. 

Stephenson filled in for Granger commendably, playing 29.2 minutes per game and putting up 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game, and a career-high %46 field goal percentage. 

He played so well that despite Granger returning, Stephenson still retained the starting job, and is averaging 13.3 points, 6.7 assists,  and 5.2 rebounds per game in a career-high 35 minutes per game and a career-high %49.9 field goal percentage. 

Stephenson is also in the elite club of players with a triple-double this season (he has two,) and is less pushy with his shots in years past, being more distributor than shoot-first. 

He works well with the rest of the starting unit, but the majority of his points come when he is playing with the second unit, where he is the #1 option on offense.

 Lance has gotten progressively better each season since being a short-tempered Rookie who no one could stand, to being an important player for the best team in the East. Stephenson is already much better than most people expected, but if he could get better...well...look out. 

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