Stephenson, who was considered toxic by the Mavs due to his character issues a couple of months ago, is somewhere on the top tier with Trevor Ariza and Luol Deng, a source told ESPNDallas.com. There is not a consensus opinion among the Dallas decision-makers about the rankings of those three unrestricted free agents.
The 23-year-old Stephenson, who has balked at the Indiana Pacers attempt to re-sign him to a five-year, $44 million deal, unquestionably has the highest upside of the Mavs’ options if Parsons returns to the Rockets. He averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the 56-win Pacers last season.
However, there are significant concerns about how Stephenson’s antics would affect the Mavs’ chemistry. His immaturity and tendency to rub his teammates the wrong way was cited as one of the factors for the Pacers’ slide in the second half of the season.
There are several examples of players who were considered character risks when the Mavs acquired them flourishing in Dallas. There are also cases such as Josh Howard and Lamar Odom where character issues led to painful endings.
It’s a matter of how much the Mavs are willing to pay to roll the dice on fire and ice.
At 6-foot-5, Stephenson played primarily shooting guard in Indiana but would start at small forward in Dallas.
It would not be ideal to pair 6-foot-3 Monta Ellis and Stephenson on the wings, making the Mavs a little undersized at both spots. But the rugged, 230-pound Stephenson is an upgrade over Shawn Marion as a rebounder – and Marion led the Mavs in rebounding the last three seasons. The Mavs also believe the presence of Tyson Chandler would minimize the defensive issues of being so short on the wings.
The Mavs also continue to be in contact with the agents of Paul Pierce and Marion, but they are on a tier below Ariza, Deng and now Stephenson.