Indiana Pacers: Lance Stephenson Must Become A Leader [Opinion]

Lance Stephenson has made a major impact on the NBA throughout his career. From blowing in LeBron James’ ear to returning to the Indiana Pacers after failing elsewhere, his career has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. Now, the Pacers desperately need Stephenson to step up as a leader.

It seems like yesterday that the Pacers were the best team in the Eastern Conference and Stephenson was a budding star. Then, he made the unfortunate decision to leave in free agency and sign with the Charlotte Hornets.

Last season, the entire Pacers’ fan base was shocked to wake up one day and see that Stephenson was finally returning home. They had been waiting on that news since the day Lance left town. Heading into the 2017-18 season, the Pacers are hoping that Stephenson can step up and help keep the team competitive.

Stephenson played in just six regular-season games last season with the Pacers. He averaged 7.2 points, 4.2 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game in those six games, shooting 40.9 percent from the field overall and 62.5 percent from the three-point line. Obviously, those shooting numbers are a bit inflated due to only playing in six games.

During the Pacers’ four-game playoff sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Stephenson took his game to a new level. He averaged 16.0 points per game to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Indiana finally looked to have their dynamic duo of Stephenson and Paul George back again.

Heading into the offseason, the Pacers were planning to aggressively pursue Gordon Hayward. They also were linked to players like Jrue Holiday and Danillo Gallinari. George threw a wrench in the Pacers’ plans when he informed the team that he was planning to leave town following the 2017-18 season.

Indiana is now on a completely new path, with Myles Turner, Stephenson, and Victor Oladipo as the faces of the franchise. The Pacers are not expected to compete in the Eastern Conference but could end up sneaking into a playoff spot.

What exactly do the Pacers need from Stephenson this season? Quite simply, leadership is the number one thing that is needed on this particular team.

At 26 years of age, Stephenson has seen the league from a unique perspective. He has starred in a town that loves him and has failed in towns that judged him. Stephenson is now ready to step up and take care of the fans who have supported him throughout his entire career.

Looking at the Indiana roster, there are no other players capable of stepping up as a vocal leader like Stephenson is capable of doing. Turner and Oladipo will both lead by example on the court and Darren Collison could do his best to lead as well. That being said, Stephenson has proven himself to be a leader, even in the short period of time that he was with the Pacers last season.

Expect to see Stephenson embrace the leadership role that the Pacers will task him with. He may not end up being a starter, but he will be just as big of a piece for Indiana coming off the bench.

Stephenson has the hearts of Pacers’ fans, and he will do everything in his power to keep the Pacers in contention moving forward without George.

Do you think Lance Stephenson is poised to have a big season for the Pacers? What are your expectations for them this season? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below!

[Featured Image by Chris Szagola/AP Images]