Lance Stephenson Should Be Primary Target For Nets This Offseason
General Manager Billy King and Head Coach Jason Kidd will have to do some brain storming this offseason to answer the key questions surrounding this Brooklyn Nets team.
What is Deron Williams’ future with the team? Where do Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce fit in? Who gets added? Who do we move on from?
Answers to all of those questions will have to be discussed and resolved before the Nets institute a plan for the 2014-15 season. Whichever plan they decide to move forward with, Lance Stephenson, the energetic Pacers’ swingman, must be an option on their radar.
The Eastern Conference Finals are still ongoing, but regardless of outcome, the Nets’ brass will still have to assume the Miami Heat is the standard for competing for a championship. Despite losing four of five in their playoff series this season, the Nets matched up well against the defending two time champs. All nine meetings between the two teams, including regular season, were close, hard-fought battles decided in the fourth quarter. Lebron James, to no surprise, was the key for the Heat in stifling any additional success. The Nets’ fourth quarter woes and inability to slow James’ control of the paint became their undoing.
Stephenson, a free agent at season’s end and a player James has had many issues with in the past, would bring the Nets the toughness, energy, youth and bravado this team sorely lacks.
Garnett and Pierce’s tenacity did indeed serve the Nets well in the Toronto series this year, but they cannot be relied on for the long term. Pierce is a free agent and Garnett may retire despite being under contract. Even if KG plays this season, he will be a shell of his former self due to injuries and age.
Stephenson is a terrific on the ball defender and has been one of the few consistent players on the Pacers during these current playoffs. His offensive game has improved greatly this season, as he shot 49 percent from the field, while averaging 13.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 4.6 APG. He’s only 23 years old and has shown a competitive spirit that would thrive in New York.
Let’s not forget he’s Brooklyn born too, and would most likely jump at the chance to join the Nets franchise while it’s a contender.
With Pierce’s salary coming off the books, the Nets have some wiggle room to make a move to fill out their roster. The market is still unclear for Stephenson, but he will probably command a salary in the 8-11 million dollar per year range. He’s a two way player in the mold of an Andre Iguodala, but with more of an edge and explosiveness. Iguodala is currently making between 11 to 13 million per year and he’s been a proven factor much longer than Stephenson. The Brooklyn native has had a few bouts with immaturity in his brief Indiana tenure, including that moment when he made a “choke” gesture at LeBron James in the 2012 playoffs. Despite the cockiness, Stephenson became a more polished player this season and landing him as he approaches his prime could be a steal for the Nets. Coach Kidd could be an excellent mentor for Stephenson due to his professionalism and similar tenacious defensive style.
Indiana’s season is ongoing, so it is still premature to assume their offseason plan. The landscape of the East differs throughout on an annual basis, except for that elite team who resides in Miami. If the Nets want to raise their level of play and realistically challenge the Heat for a title next season, Stephenson should be the first card they play this offseason.
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