With the reports late last night, Friday, July 11, that the NBA’s Utah Jazz have matched Gordon Hayward’s max offer from the Charlotte Hornets, the possibility that the Indiana Pacers’ Lance Stephenson might be leaving the team for the Hornets has just become all too real.
Lance entered Friday evening with little options as to where he would end up, after the Los Angeles Lakers seemed content with sticking with what they had, and reports leaked from the Miami Heat camp that they were interested in courting other small forward options, like Loul Deng and Trevor Ariza.
Only two other teams in the NBA seemed like viable options for Lance after the Lakers and Heat: the Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls. But until this recent announcement, the Bulls had made it clear they're only interested in courting Pau Gasol and Dwayne Wade, and the Hornets appeared to have Hayward securely lined up.
However, this move by the Jazz has subsequently revealed the Hornets’ hand and exposed their want for a small forward and their ability to cough up the cash. And with the Stephenson camp having full knowledge of this, expect their pitch to the Hornets to come hard and early.
With Lance’s chances of securing more money than the five year, $44 million, the Pacers have offered him now looking better than ever, the Pacers seem to be faced with the question as to where do they go from here?
Offering Lance more money does not appear to be in the Pacers’ cards, but after the dust has settled on the rest of the free agency moves, it could be a possibility. However, the Pacers are relatively short on cash, and even if they did decide to offer Lance more money, they probably could not match any max offers.
The most likely option is that the Pacers simply just “bite the bullet” on the 2014-15 season, start their new signee, C.J. Miles, at small forward, and work with what they have. This "Lance or C.J."theory seems to be affirmed by the relative quietness of rumors from the Pacers' camp lately.
While C.J. Miles is quite the capable player, there would still be significant drop in talent level if he were to replace Stephenson. Meaning, if Stephenson were to go to the Hornets, the Pacers would be back to the drawing board in terms of finding a scoring option to compliment Paul George.