The Indiana Pacers announced they have declined their team option on Lance Stephenson's contract. The guard would have made $4.36 million in the upcoming season, but he will instead enter free agency.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports first reported the move.
“'Since a young’n I always believed in myself," Stephenson said in an Instagram post. "Ready for all challenges, always held my head up and ready for all things GOD put me through. MAN I LOVE THIS GAME' BORNREADY."
The 27-year-old averaged 9.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game this season, both of which were his highest since his first go-round with the team in 2013-14.
Upon leaving Indiana the first time, Stephenson played for five organizations over a three-year stretch. He rejoined the Pacers in March 2017 on a three-year deal with a third-year team option.
Stephenson appeared in all 82 games this season, making a positive impact off the bench while averaging 22.6 minutes per game. He also averaged 12.5 points per game in 11 playoff games across the past two seasons, all against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Throughout his career, Stephenson has averaged 11.1 points per game in the postseason compared to only 8.8 points per game in the regular season. While he was a fan favorite at times in Indiana, head coach Nate McMillan knows there were also drawbacks to his style of play.
"He does some good things and then we have to...we just have to watch him carefully," McMillan said this season, per the team's official site. "Some of those plays can cost you. He has to be able to control his emotions out there going down the stretch."
Stephenson also lacked efficiency, finishing the season with minus-0.3 win shares on offense and a box plus/minus of minus-2.1, per Basketball Reference.
Indiana already has a star at shooting guard in Victor Oladipo, and Bojan Bogdanovic is also a threat on the wing. That reduces the Pacers' need for another option in the backcourt.
Considering Stephenson's struggles outside of Indiana and the lack of salary-cap space around the league, the guard may be facing a chilly market this summer.