Standing O Sports

Indiana Pacers: Lance Stephenson Is A Top 3 SG

courtesy: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

When the Indiana Pacers get brought up in conversation, the first players that come to most people’s minds are Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and David West. Even the often injured Danny Granger could be one of the players that fans associate with the organization.

The player that often is forgotten is Lance Stephenson even though he is having a breakout season for the best team in the NBA. He’s Mr. Do-it-all for Indiana and while his game may not be that prettiest, Stephenson has developed into one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. Heck, he’s playing so good right now he might even be the third best shooting guard in the league behind Dwyane Wade and James Harden.

How good has Lance Stephenson been this season you may ask? The answer: really, really, really good. The former Cincinnati Bearcat is second on the Pacers in points per game (13.9), second in rebounds per game (6.8), first in assists per game (5.2),

courtesy: nba.com

courtesy: nba.com

second in field goal percentage (46%), and is the team’s best perimeter defender. Compared to other shooting guards in the league, Stephenson is 16th in scoring, first in

rebounding (and that category isn’t even close), fourth in assists, and third in field goal percentage.

All in all, he is arguably the most well rounded shooting guard in the league. But it wasn’t always that way.

It took a while for Stephenson to develop into the player he is now. After graduating from Lincoln High School in Brooklyn as the all time leading scorer in New York City high school history, Stephenson attended the University of Cincinnati where he had a decent freshman season. He averaged 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and most experts thought he should stay in school for another year to refine his game before making the leap to the NBA. But Stephenson didn’t listen, and declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman season. He fell out of the first round of the draft, and the Pacers selected him with the 10th pick in the second round (40th overall).

In his first two seasons as a pro, Stephenson played a combined 54 games (12 as a rookie, 42 as a sophomore), and averaged 2.8 points per game in very limited minutes. He started hearing the murmurs of being a “bust”, and the thing he’s remembered for most in his first two seasons was giving LeBron James the choke sign from the

courtesy: ngngsports.com

courtesy: ngngsports.com

bench after LBJ missed a free throw.

It all turned around from there, and Stephenson got a chance to start for the Pacers last season. He emerged as a very good role player, but that’s all he was. His job was to defend and make everyone else around him better.

This year has been a completely different story, and Stephenson has elevated his game to an entire new level. His numbers are up across the board and he’s playing with a certain chip on his shoulder that makes him easy to play with and tough to play against.

If you look at the other shooting guards around the league, they’re all really good at one thing. Lance Stephenson however, is really good at a lot of things. Klay Thompson – knock down shooter. Monte Ellis – deadly scorer. DeMar DeRozen – athletic monster.

The list goes on and on, but there are only three shooting guards in the league that help their teams in a bunch of different facets of the game, and their names are Dwyane Wade, James Harden, and Lance Stephenson.

These three players are true playmakers, and they make everyone else around them better. Ask any NBA head coach what they’d rather have: a one dimensional player or a player that effects both ends of the court in multiple ways. Every coach would say the latter.

If I were ranking the top shooting guards in the NBA today, it’d go Harden, Wade, Stephenson, and I wouldn’t even think about it.

At 23-years-old, Lance Stephenson is only getting better, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the league.

Do you think Lance Stephenson is a top three shooting guard in the NBA? If not, who do you put ahead of him? Leave it below.


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