This season, the Indiana Pacers have set themselves up for loads of success, but many consider the Pacers to still be one trade away from being an elite team in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers made a few offseason acquisitions that immediately made them a better team all around. George Hill coming off the bench with the ability to play both guard spots was a huge move that Larry Bird made last June.
The Pacers have made enormous strides to become a better team and have made many moves that shows they want to become an elite team again.
With that said, the Pacers aren't exactly shopping before this upcoming trade deadline, but it's no secret that the team is willing to make a move that would take them a step up to compete with Chicago and Miami.
So as many analyze what the Pacers organization has to offer, many immediately look to the shooting guard spot and Lance Stephenson.
Stephenson is a talent that is far overlooked. The 21-year-old guard has loads of talent and it has yet to blossom in the NBA.
Many forget how much talent this young guard has because there is a cloud of darkness, full of bad mistakes and misguided decisions, that cloud what Stephenson can potentially offer to the table one day.
Many forget that Stephenson is currently the state of New York's all-time leader in points with 2,946. While breaking the state scoring record, Stephenson also managed to lead his team, Lincoln High just outside of Brooklyn, to four straight city titles, a feat that had never been accomplished before.
After breaking many records in high school, the 6'5" guard attended the University of Cincinnati amidst much controversy during his recruiting process. While with the Bearcats, Stephenson averaged 12.3 PPG, 2.5 APG and grabbed 5.4 RPG.
For a freshman, that is quiet the stat-line when playing against some of the best guards in the country in the Big East Conference. Stephenson always had his eyes on the big league though and elected to be a one-and-done player.
Selected with the 40th pick in the draft, the Indiana Pacers saw his potential and looked past the guard's shaky track record. In many ways, Stephenson was somewhat of a project for the Pacers and now has become a project for coach Frank Vogel.
Stephenson has not lit up any box-scores lately, but he is showing more and more promise with time. His minutes are increasing as well as most of the important statistics. Stephenson's field goal percentage has increased a full five percent and his turnovers are down to only 1.0 per game.
These are important notes because it means he is learning to play within a system, letting the game come to him. Yes, he is not progressing as quickly as Paul George, but Stephenson is making noticeable progress.
Stephenson has talent and one day I look for it to be unleashed. He has already had somewhat of a coming-out party, but hasn't consistently strung games together. Stephenson posted games of 12 points versus Atlanta, nine points vs. Cleveland and eight points twice thus far this season.
He has showed progress and he deserves respect for how far he has come. I believe the Pacers shouldn't be so quick to trade away a talent like Stephenson due to his potential. So far, there have been no problems with the young guard and he has the ability to score points in bunches.
He has long been known for being an offensive firepower and one day, relatively soon, I believe we will see how much potential this former McDonald's high school All-American really has.