Lance Stephenson has been kind of a perfect individual example of the Pacers' recent rise. An apparent castoff drafted in the second round by the Pacers, Stephenson has overcome a lot of issues to become one of the most important players on one of the league's best teams.
But, he's headed for free agency next summer as he's in the final year of a contract paying him only a little more than $1 million this season.
The Pacers, though, have roughly $60 million committed next summer, leaving more than a mid-level sized deal for Stephenson assuming the Pacers want to stay under the luxury tax threshold.
And Stephenson says he wants to stay in Indiana and has no interest in looking around.
"I wouldn't want to leave a good team like this. I definitely would love to come back," Stephenson said, via USA Today. "I just love the city. I love the team. I love who I play with and I feel like we're a young group and I think we should stick together."
Obviously, he's saying all that assuming he's going to get paid. With Danny Granger's $14 million coming off the books and Luis Scola unguaranteed, there's room to offer Stephenson a solid-sized deal.
Stephenson is off to a terrific start for the 6-0 Pacers, averaging 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He's kind of becoming the Pacers' barometer, as evidence in the Eastern finals against the Heat. When he played well, the Pacers won. When he didn't, the Pacers lost. So he seems important to a blossoming Eastern powerhouse.
"The future holds itself," Stephenson said, "and I think Larry [Bird] and the people upstairs will do anything to keep me here."