May 30, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) reacts during the second half in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Rumors: Pacers have to 'get creative' to keep Lance Stephenson

In just under a month, Indiana Pacers’ shooting guard Lance Stephenson will become an unrestricted free agent.

Stephenson has expressed his desire to return. As have his teammates. The odds are he is back in a Pacers’ uniform next season, but it is no certainty. Both the Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls are expected to show interest in Stephenson. Plus, the Pacers already have several highly-paid players.

John Zitzler of Basketball Insiders believes the Pacers will have to “get creative” to hang on to Stephenson.

Stephenson has come a long way since his days at Lincoln High School and summer showcases at Rucker Park, and he has grown into a very solid NBA guard. It is expected he will command somewhere between $8 and $12 million per season on his new contract. He will undoubtedly be ready to capitalize on the hard work that has put him in this position.

With George Hill ($8 million per year), Roy Hibbert ($14-$15 million per year), David West ($12 million per year) and Paul George ($14-$16 million per year) all under contract through at least next season, Bird may have to get creative if he wants to retain Stephenson. Would Stephenson be willing to take a “hometown discount” or would he rather take more money to play elsewhere? A number of teams have already been mentioned as potential suitors for Stephenson, including the Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets.

Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game this season while shooting 49.1% from the field, 35.2% from beyond the arc and 71.1% from the free throw line in the regular season. In the postseason, he put up 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. He shot 45.5% from the field, 35.8% from three and 71.4% from the charity stripe.

Tags: Charlotte Hornets Chicago Bulls Indiana Pacers NBA Rumors

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