There will almost undoubtedly be one NBA team willing to overpay for Lance Stephenson. After a breakout campaign, the volatile guard emerged as a potential All-Star when he's locked in, and with good timing as he's set to hit unrestricted free agency this July.
Stephenson will eventually get the contract he wants. He had too good of a season last year, and there are too many short-sighted front offices in the league. But overpaying for Stephenson will, in all likelihood, be a mistake.
This past season, at a $1 million salary, Stephenson had incredible value. Oftentimes, he was great and displayed the type of skill that you usually find in star playmakers. But as the season grew older, and the Pacers began to self-destruct, and the rumors began to mount, the other side of Stephenson slowly reared its ugly head.
After averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists this past season, it's easy to say that Stephenson deserves a payday. To a point, he does. He's certainly in for a dramatic raise from the $3.4 million he's made over the last four seasons. But, even though Stephenson may one day grow into a star, he isn't somebody you can pay like a star right now. Not at 23, and not with just two years of legitimate NBA playing time under his belt.
HoopsHabit's Evan Massey explained why Stephenson's upcoming situation is one of the more interesting ones this summer:
Multiple teams will be showing interest in signing Stephenson this offseason, but the biggest issue is not knowing how he will fit within a new locker room and system. The coaching staff and team in Indiana has helped stabilize him and help him mature in a big way, but changing that type of culture could be a very bad thing for him. That being said, his talent does speak for itself and that is why a lot of teams will end up reluctantly making him nice contract offers.
After his wildly successful 2013-14 campaign, he's certainly looking to cash out and take advantage while he can. But for GMs, the chances of a fat Stephenson contract hampering their team are much more likely than it leading it to the promised land.