NBA / Jul 30, 2010 / 5:35 pm

Indiana: Please Don’t Start Lance Stephenson at Point Guard

Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati

Other than “I can’t stand Reggie Miller,” the last thing you’d expect to hear from an Indiana Pacers fan is, “I hope we start T.J. Ford at point guard.”

But that’s where I’m at right now. After incoming rookie Lance Stephenson turned in a surprisingly effective and efficient performance at the Orlando Summer League (14.8 ppg, 73% FG), the idea of him starting at point guard next season is building momentum. It was further bolstered when Stephenson inked a three-year guaranteed contract, a rarity for a second-round draft pick.

But for the sake of Lance’s pro career, I hope that doesn’t happen.

I’ve watched Lance grow up over the last few years. I first met and wrote a feature about him when he was a sophmore at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, then I wrote a cover story on him when he was 17 and going into his senior year. Since then I’ve kept contact with Lance and his father, and followed his progress during his freshman year at Cincinnati. I’m rooting for Lance, and I was thrilled that my favorite team picked him up as a second-round steal. And I do think he’ll be a good NBA player.

But he shouldn’t start at point guard right now. At least not from Opening Night. The Pacers have enough holes in the lineup and things to iron out in the rotation that they don’t need a rookie point guard who’s learning not only a new position, but a new lifestyle and a new league, thrust into a starting position when he doesn’t have to be.

The problem is that — because Indiana used its No. 10 pick on Paul George instead of trading for a starting-caliber point guard like Darren Collison or Ty Lawson — the only other options besides Lance at the one are T.J. Ford and A.J. Price; the latter is coming off major knee surgery, while the former has lost all trust from coach Jim O’Brien and is being shopped in trade talks probably as you read this.

But among the group of Indiana PG’s, Ford is the most ready to play major minutes right now. And while his reputation in the League can’t get much worse, he has put together solid stretches of play recently. Last February, when Ford came off an extended benching by O’Brien and had to fill in while Earl Watson was hurt, he put up 11.5 points and 3.4 assists in 10 games. And he’s at least familiar with offensive anchors Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Troy Murphy, plus Ford has enough experience to kind of hold down the fort until Lance or Price is ready.

In the meantime, O’Brien will have the flexibility to bring Lance along slowly, giving him minutes at the one and the two while coming off the bench and easing his transition to the NBA game and NBA life.

It looks like Lance will eventually be the Pacers’ starting point guard. That’s fine by me. I just hope it doesn’t happen sooner than it should.

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  • kingralf

    “Last February, when Ford came off an extended benching by O’Brien and had to fill in while Earl Watson was hurt, he put up 11.5 points and 3.4 assists in 10 games”

    yeah, sounds pretty solid for a starting pg…

  • kudos

    Don’t think Denver or Nawleans’ would entertain your offer of one of their only promising young players for the #10 pick.

    Indiana’s gotta try something new after all these losing years don’t they?

  • jace

    yea please dont do that… theres no way that distribution is in lance’s game just yet. he’s got a scoring mentality.. and if u give him the ball, he’s gonna be looking for his own shot 90% of the time.. he only passes it when his teammate is completely free.. i.e. fastbreaks.

  • chris

    yah, indiana needs a much better point guard than tj ford…toronto took that gamble, and it didn’t work…just cos he plays fast doesn’t mean he passes or shoots worth sh*t.
    jace has it wright…lance is a shooter, not a passer…just let danny granger bring it up, he won’t embarass you any more than lance or tj, and will prolly get more assists and less turnovers per minute than either!

  • Promoman

    Lance may be a shoot-first player but so is T.J. Ford. At least Lance is bigger, stronger, will try to defend more than Ford, and has enough speed to be a perimeter player. T.J.’s one of the fastest guys in the league but he’s got an asshole track record too. People don’t talk enough about him fighting Jarrett Jack on national T.V. about a year ago when he couldn’t do what he wanted with the ball. T.J. has a lot of talent but he’s yet to prove that he can put it together. T.J. only passes the ball when it’s a guaranteed assist/highlight or when he can’t get a shot off.

  • Chuck

    I’m with post 5

    Lance is bigger stronger and will defend more than ford would. I don’t see anything wrong with trying Lance out, it’s not like the Pacers are a Championship team, or even a playoff team. Experimenting may be good for this team and maybe Lance, Granger and Hibbert can gel together and win a few games. It’s ridiculous that Lance fell that low in the second round anyway. So I hope he does good.

  • Stunnaboy09

    Put Lance in there from day 1 and let him learn from his mistakes. The Pacers got nothing better to do this year, not like they are going to make the playoffs. Develop the guy and get him some PT with Granger, Murphy and Hibbert. His J is good enough to get respect from defenders and he can drive it exceptionally.

    Paul George to me is the most interesting pick. Top 5 talent but can he develop into more of a 2 as Granger got the SF spot locked down. Crazy though having playing 2 6’8 guys in the SG/SF spots.

  • JAX

    Why hasn’t anyone talked about Lance’s NBA ready body? The guy is still developing at 6’5″, built like a free safety and has VISION. Couple that with 6’8″ and above along the front line and we may have something going. At least it’s a better start than previous years. What’s under the radar with the Pacers is that they hired Clark Kellogg to help with the off-the-court things needed for rookies and youngsters alike to adapt.

  • dagwaller

    LOLOL @ 1. EXACTLY what I was thinking!

  • This_Will_Hurt

    Seriously…what the f#$k is there to lose. You know option A obviously doesn’t work with Ford runnin’ the show & option B has yet to even show that his game is actually fit for the League. You at least let him run in Pre-Season then get to actual game experience, besides you known T.J. is due for another injury sometime soon. I’d even just go with Stephenson, with George & Granger on the wings. Or is Dunleavy about good for an All-Star season?!

  • Tru Warrior

    Is there a reason the Pacers don’t trade for Calderon while the Raps are practicly giving him away?

  • Busted Douglas

    I agree, bring Lance along slow. NFL teams screw too many young QB’s with that “Just throw in him there and let him learn, we stink anyway” approach. And I’m sure a lot of MLB pitchers have suffered from getting brought up too early under the “What do we have to lose?” thought process. I know its different sports, but PG is alot like QB and pitcher because young players have so much to learn. It’s not like sticking Lance at SF and telling him to just score. He’s got to run the team, call the plays, etc.

  • Chise

    @12

    Though you do make a solid point, I still think the sports are too different. I think Lance is confident enough in himself and his game to be able to handle the opsticles of playing on a bad team. The Pacers will surely suck this year whether he plays or not but he makes them better than TJ Ford.

  • ROB IS BACK

    REMEMBER ME AUSTIN BURTON?

    About 3 years ago, you were telling the world how great Lance Stephenson was. I told you about John Wall and how he was infinitely better than Lance Stephenson. While Lance is by no means a no-talent player, I think if you ask anybody right now, it’s not even close. John Wall is by far the better player. I remember a few years back when all the other people in the comments section (NY born and raised no doubt) were asking who the hell John Wall was. I think now-a-days everybody knows who John Wall is and just about everybody could care less about Sir Lance-a-lot. While Lance has some talent, he isn’t anythings special. True story. It was pretty obvious 3 years ago and its still pretty obvious today. So do everybody a favor and stop writing about Lance and move on to the next big thing coming out of NY (like you always do, i.e. Sebastian Telfair, Stephon Marbury, etc). Same shit different year. Lance will be at the very best a serviceable player in the league. That’s all. He has a shoot-first mentality and his ego has been inflated by people like you from an early age. I hope that this will be the last Lance Stephenson article dedicated to Lance on DIME, because honestly, I don’t think anybody wants to read about Lance and his overrated game anymore.

  • Stokely

    Pacers are in basketball hell. Theyt better hope to get lucky in the lottery soon because they ain’t getting any better. They wasting Granger’s prime, they better offf shipping him to Chicago. BTW, Lance Stephenson going to brick like McCants and be out the league in a few years.

  • country boi

    telfair is probably one of the most talanted point guards in the league he just was never giving the chance..hes imporoved his game tremendously….if u knew bball u would kno it would take a sub 6′ point guard from highschool awhile to shine

  • larry

    john wall has not shown to be better than lance in fact lance has played better than wall in summer league wall has miss way to many shoots than lance and he has turned the ball over way to much very overrated…..lance has shown greatness in all his game did not miss to many shots and didnt turn the ball over at all maybe 3 times come on not be real lance is a better player…..