Face of the Franchise: Lance Stephenson?

I was thinking today how Indiana could soon be facing a 2012 Thunder situation. They did it the right way. Draft guys, develop them, sign them. You could argue Indiana and OKC are the model franchises for small market success recently. The Pacers found guys later in the draft than even OKC. The point is, how to you sign all that young talent long term when you have a small town budget?

In 2012, OKC had a tough call to make. They had Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka signed to major deals, just made the finals and lost. Everyone thought that was just the tip the iceberg. However there was one large problem...What to do with James Harden? He was entering the last year of his deal so do you lock him up, go over or dangerously near the cap for a small market team? Or trade him for assets rather than let him walk for nothing? We all know they traded Harden to Houston.

I'm of the opinion you go after elite talent, especially when it is young and full of upside. I'm the first to admit I'm not the biggest Lance Stephenson fan. He's reckless, a knucklehead, and gives you head scratching moments where you just say why? He's a lot like Russell Westbrook. But that's also what makes him great. He's the kind of guy you love if he is on your team and hate if he's on the other team. The biggest question is, is this a guy to build around? Is he a franchise, because team chemistry means lot. But I believe talent means more.

I think the Hornet need a crunch time go to scorer. This tends to be a guy who can be a ball handler, create his own shot, or set someone else up. I believe this easily fits Lance Stephenson. He's an All Star easily on this roster. He's a hell of a defender and rebounder. He gets assists. He could easily be a 20 ppg guy on this team. He's a huge upgrade over Henderson.

The question isn't why would Indy trade him, it's can they afford him. This article really points out his value and The Pacers cap situation.

The one interesting point not discussed is Indy's Bird Rights to Stephenson. In short they could sign him to max deal with less of a penalty against the cap. But George's deal goes up from 15 to 18 mil. Essentially, the Pacers have a situation a lot like the Thunder had. With George, Hibbert, West, and Hill committing upwards of 54 mil plus guys like Scola, Mahinmi, and Copeland each with 4 or 3 mil deals...they won't have much to spend with the projected cap at 75 mil.

So will Larry Legend do what OKC did? Trade for assets rather than being fiscally strapped for cash for years to come. I think small markets won't flirt with the luxury tax. If the Pacers do lose to Miami or go to the Finals and lose (like the Thunder did) I think they are willing to deal Stephenson like OKC did with Harden.

Would they bite for something like the 9th, 24th, and Henderson for a sign and trade Stephenson deal. I'd even toss in the 2015 1st rounder or the 45 overall 2014 pick preferably. I think you take elite talent. Walker, Stephenson, MKG, Zeller, and Al fits scheme wise. The Hornets have the cap room, he's a more complete player over other possible targets in Hayward and Monroe on both ends.

Again, not sure I know if it's a perfect fit. But his attitude has been fine I think. Cliff would handle it. Do you think it's doable?

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