This offseason has been a little screwy. No, scratch that. A lot screwy. And there haven’t been many more confusing issues than the plight of Lance Stephenson.
Stephenson broke out last season, assuming the mantle as the Pacers’ starting shooting guard and having his best season to date, actually leading the NBA in triple doubles for the season. As a second-round draft choice, Stephenson was a great value player for Indiana last season and many thought he was a snub for the All-Star game (in reality, he wasn’t as Kyle Lowry and Joe Johnson, both deserved it over Stephenson). When free agency rolled around at the start of this month, Stephenson was miffed at what he considered a low-ball offer from his current team. Reportedly, the Pacers offered Stephenson a five-year, $44 million deal and Lance was not impressed. But every since word of the contract impasse came out, we haven’t heard much about Stephenson. We didn’t know who was interested, where he was leaning, who he was meeting, until suddenly, boom, we find out today that he has signed with the Charlotte Hornets.
Now, we didn’t know that the Hornets were very interested in upgrading their wings. They had already extended a max offer sheet to Gordon Hayward, which was duly matched by Utah and drafted P.J. Hairston in the first round. But the acquisition of Stephenson could propel the Hornets into a higher playoff season when April next year rolls around.
The reported terms of the deal are three-years, $27 million with the last season being a team option, which is marginally more per season than Indiana’s offer, but with much less long term security. It seems obvious that something more was happening between Stephenson and team president Larry Bird, but what is Indiana’s loss is now Charlotte’s gain. One possibility, is that the Pacers let Stephenson walk to clear cap space to offer a max deal to Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe. That, of course, remains to be seen.
For now, let’s look at what Stephenson was able to do in his breakout season.
People were raving about Stephenson in fantasy circles last season, but as you can see, his end of season ranking is not all th at awe-inspiring. What you can’t see, is that Stephenson averaged 2.7 turnovers per game, which for a shooting guard, is quite detrimental. Add that to his poor steals, blocks and free throw numbers and his overall impact was minimal. But, depending on your punting strategy, Stephenson could’ve been a steal last season.
What changes now that he will don the purple and teal for 2014-15? In Indiana, Stephenson was probably the equal second option on offense behind Paul George and equal with David West. In Charlotte, he should be the third option, well behind Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, so he may take a slight hit there. I think there’s no doubt he starts over Gerald Henderson at the two-guard spot and I’d imagine his minutes will be on par, if not slightly less than last season.
Based on those factors, here’s my projection for Stephenson next season.
If Stephenson can do what I think he will be able to do, he should hover right on the brink of the top 100. I do, however, think that many people will grab him a lot earlier, due to those triple doubles last season, so you can probably sit back and grab someone else, unless your punting strategy fits his strengths to a T.