NBA Free Agent Rumors 2014: Indiana Pacers Could Lose Lance Stephenson to Chicago Bulls This Summer
The Indiana Pacers have the best record in the NBA today, and part of their success could be attributed to the breakout season Lance Stephenson is having this year.
But as Stephenson continues to turn heads with his impressive all-around play, there is also a growing concern about the impending free agency of the 23-year-old guard, who is averaging 13.9 points to go along with 6.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game this season.
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Stephenson, whose name is already being mentioned in All-Star Game talks, will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2013-14 NBA season. The Pacers are facing the dilemma of going over the luxury tax limit to keep the emerging guard, or just let go of him without getting anything in return.
Basketball Insiders reported that the Pacers could offer as much as $8 million to $9 million a year to Stephenson, but as he continues to show improvements, the fourth-year guard could command more than what the Pacers can afford.
"The better he plays, the better chance Indiana has at the title. But the better he plays, the less likely it is they can afford to hold onto him," the report pointed out.
The Pacers could make salary-dumping moves next offseason, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can find enough cap room to keep the former Cincinnati standout.
"There is a chance that they could offload some other contract or contracts to ensure he remains in Indianapolis, but there's also a lot of free agency money floating around this summer and Stephenson could command upwards of $11 million to $12 million a season at this point. He fits well with the Pacers, but it's hard to say whether another team may swoop in and steal him away," Basketball Insiders noted.
Chicago Bulls Expected To Go After Stephenson
And if the Pacers decide to go into another direction instead of going over the luxury tax line to keep Stephenson, the Chicago Bulls are expected to make a strong push for the former second-round draftee.
The Chicago Sun-Times recently reported that the Bulls are planning to make a splash on the free agency market next offseason with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony as their primary targets.
But if the Bulls fail to acquire either superstar, Chicago has a Plan B in place -- stealing Stephenson from their Central Division rival.
"If they fail to land a star of the magnitude of Anthony or James, there is a consolation prize. The Bulls would love to nab Lance Stephenson from the Indiana Pacers," the Sun-Times reported.
If the Bulls successfully nabs Stephenson via free agency, he is expected to take the role left by Luol Deng, who was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month.