Join Our Team!Sports Beat Writing Opportunities Available!

The NBA’s Most Improved Player, And Beyond

Lance Stephenson All-Star
Indiana Pacers’ Lance Stephenson recorded his fifth double-double this season on Friday

Corey B. Elliot
ISR Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLISLance Stephenson recorded 20 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the Indiana Pacers‘ win against the Charlotte Bobcats Friday night. It was Stephenson’s fifth double-double of the season and his seventh of his career.

On November 29th against the Washington Wizards Stephenson was three points shy of his third triple double, Friday night he was three assists short of the same feat, in total, he should have four triple-doubles this season. No, that wasn’t a typo; four. Instead, he’s doubled his career double-double total, and then some.

So, the question isn’t whether Stephenson is the NBA’s most improved player—that’s not even up for debate—of course he is. His 2012 average of 8.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game has jumped to 12.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and five assists per game. Does Stephenson deserve to make the Eastern Conference All-Star team this February, that’s the real question many should ponder?

“Our record is 20-3, we’re number one in the East and he (Stephenson) has a lot to do with it,” Paul George said. “I think he is deserving of getting votes and receiving an All-Star bid with the way that he’s been playing this year.”

Much is made of the success George has experienced, and rightfully so. He’s currently second in Eastern Conference All-Star voting behind LeBron James—Roy Hibbert is sixth place in the ballots. How many people pay little attention to Lance, though? How many people have filled out a ballot without thinking twice about the fourth year, second round pick from Cincinnati?

Friday night’s performance is another reminder for anyone sleeping on him that it’s time to wake up. We aren’t talking about a streaky, inconsistent player like J.R. Smith. What Stephenson is doing across the entire statistical-spectrum is as impressive as it gets in the NBA.

It’s no surprise, though. Indiana has managed to show up each night with the name on the front meaning far more than the name on the back of their jerseys. When you play for something bigger than yourself, it seems you’ll almost always become a better player. Stephenson isn’t focused on anything else.

“I’m just playing hard. I’m just worried about us getting the W’s. I’m not worried about All-Star or most improved, I let my game speak for itself. I’m just trying to bring it every night,” Stephenson said of his success. “I’m just working on being consistent every night bringing rebounds or points to get my team the win.”

While it’s nice to be humble, and it’s no secret Stephenson’s success has a lot to do with his maturity and growth as a person as much as it does as a player, this might be the one exception where Stephenson would be within his right to look at the camera and make his best argument as a valid All-Star selection come February.

Corey Elliot is a Senior Writer at the Indy Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access.  Follow Corey and the ISR on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.