Lance Stephenson’s free agency should be a mega-event. He’s just 23, with solid two-way skills at a position where talent is so scarce, Klay Thompson’s agent will be able to keep a straight face when trying to wring a max-level extension from Golden State.1

And Stephenson is an unrestricted free agent. Players this talented almost never hit the market unfettered so early in their careers, and when they do, crazy stuff tends to happen. Gilbert Arenas’s sooner-than-usual unrestricted free agency resulted in a massive contract from Washington and panicked rule changes in the collective bargaining agreement.

Any team with cap room and some guts could try to persuade Stephenson to be a fixture on the wing for the next half-decade. Rebuilding teams can’t even use the excuse about not wanting to splurge in free agency ahead of schedule; Stephenson’s age makes him a natural fit on any team at the start of its upswing. Nabbing Stephenson comes with the bonus of snatching a crucial piece from an Eastern Conference heavyweight, leaving Indiana capped out and without any means to sign an equal talent.

Come on, people! Stephenson is the gleaming big-screen TV on the old Wheel of Fortune carousel of otherwise crappy prizes. Just drop the cash and you might be able to have him!

But the chatter around Stephenson’s free agency is quiet, for two reasons:

1. He’s a difficult personality. Executives on some teams with the requisite cap room recoil in horror at the very mention of his name. Teams with minor burbling locker-room discontent are hesitant to toss in another volatile personality. Stephenson’s embarrassing antics in the Eastern Conference finals inflamed the perception of him as a rogue loon whose “personality” will nearly cancel out all the good he might do on the floor. And the question lying just underneath those (legitimate) concerns: What happens when a guy who should be on his best behavior in pursuit of his first giant NBA paycheck actually gets that paycheck?

2. It’s hard to tell exactly how good Stephenson is, and how good he might one day be. This is the challenge of player evaluation — separating out a player from his current roster and figuring out how he might do in a different place, with a different role and different teammates. Stephenson can fade into a limited role within Indiana’s killer starting lineup, and he played almost all of his minutes in lineups that struggled to space the floor.