The Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Hornets agreed on a three player trade that will send Lance Stephenson to the Clippers, and Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes to the Hornets. Barnes is not expected to be retained by the Hornets, while Hawes is entering the second year of a 4 year-$22 million deal.
The teams had reportedly discussed a Lance trade mid-season, but Clippers GM Doc Rivers backed out of the trade. He finally went all in on Monday, dealing Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes for the enigmatic Stephenson. However, despite Lance's mercurial nature, Doc felt confident the Clippers could surround him with a veteran presence, and get the best out of Lance.
Lance starred on a 56 win Pacers team that finished first in the East in 2014. He was the secondary option on offense, and a dynamic rebounder and disrupter on defense. He even led the league in triple doubles, with five. 2014 was his breakout season, and he was rewarded with a 3 year-$27 million contract from Charlotte. But by leaving the Pacers, Lance was leaving a veteran-laden team that had been able to strike a balance with Lance. They were able to reign in his gunner mentality, while still keeping the raw talent and instinct that made him a destructive force defensively. But his on-court antics caused him to wear out his welcome in Indiana, and he opted to go to Charlotte rather than re-sign with the Pacers.
Any proponents of Murphy's law probably use Stephenson's lone season with the Hornets as their main example. His averages dropped dramatically across all fronts, and his poor body language showed his frustration. He went from being a key cog on an Eastern Conference Finalist, to being the whipping boy for a 33 win team. After finishing the 2014 season with a 13.8-7.2-4.6 line on 49% shooting, he put up an 8.2-4.5-3.9 line on 37% shooting. Of any NBA player who shot 100 threes in 2015, Stephenson had by far the worst percentage, at just 16%. And both traditional and advanced metrics hated Stephenson, as he finished with a PER of 8.87, dead last amongst players who played over 25 MPG. After the disastrous season with Charlotte, Doc is betting that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can control Stephenson, and maximize his potential. We have seen his tremendous upside, but also what happens when everything goes wrong.
Luckily, Lance's deal makes the downside of the trade low. His deal is now a 2 year-$18 million dollar contract that has a team option for the final year. If Lance self-destructs on the Clippers, they can get out after just one year. But if the trade works, Doc will have managed to acquire a key piece to their championship puzzle for a very low price. The Clippers are banking on Stephenson, now we just have to see if Lance can deliver.