The Indiana Pacers are coming off of a great season where they pushed the Miami Heat to a seven game series in the Eastern Conference Finals. They’ve added multiple pieces through free agency and trade this off-season including Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, and C.J. Watson.
This article is all about breaking down which individual player needs to step up this season in order for the Pacers to reach their full potential. They are a very young team, so many players need to step up, but the number one guy that they are counting on is Lance Stephenson.
Stephenson is coming off of a season where he averaged 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. There were multiple times when Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said that the team relied on Stephenson to play well and had a tough time winning when he didn’t.
There is uncertainty about whether or not Stephenson will be Indiana’s starting shooting guard this season with Danny Granger coming back healthy, but whether or not he starts, he’ll still be the player that needs to step up the most.
If he does start, Indiana needs him to play the role he played last year much more consistently. His perimeter shooting certainly improved last season, but he needs to improve it once again this off-season. He’s the guy who needs to be able to space the floor for Hibbert and West down low, and he’ll get multiple open looks per game from beyond the arc. The Pacers also need Lance to keep his head in the game at all times. There were moments last season where he would make a great play but then back it up with a boneheaded mistake. They need him to eliminate the mental errors and play up to the level of basketball that he’s capable of.
Should Stephenson be asked to come off the bench, there is one obvious role that he’ll need to fill. Last year, the Pacers’ biggest issue was bench scoring. While they have added bench talent, Stephenson would be asked to handle a major part of the scoring load off the bench.
Whether it be from beyond the three-point line or inside the arc at the rim, he needs to work on his scoring consistency. He’s a big guard, and is able to bully his way to the rim through most opponents, but needs to work on his mid-range game and his ability to control himself.
Overall, Stephenson has incredible talent and will be a huge piece of the 2013-14 season for the Pacers. They need him to stay consistent and learn how to use his incredible athletic ability under control. He’s going to be a free agent following this season, so he’s also playing for a new contract. Should be a great year for him, and his success will be a huge factor in Indiana’s success this year as well.