Lance Stephenson has not fit in too well with Charlotte. I wrote back in June that I thought this would be a good fit for the ex-Pacers guard but clearly, that hasn’t been the case as the front office is rumored to be looking to move him via trade. Today marks the first day that Stephenson can be traded because of an NBA rule regarding players who sign contracts in free agency. So now that he can be moved, it’s time to take a second look.
Believe it or not, Stephenson is actually having a career year for himself so far. He scoring 10.4 points per game and average 5 assists and 7.2 rebounds a game. All of those would be career bests. The issue is he has shot an abysmal 39% from the floor and hit only 16.7% of his three point attempts. Needless to say, he has not been an effective shooter and that is more of what Charlotte was looking for to pair with his great on ball defense. Here are the teams that I think could be interested in acquiring Stephenson.
The obvious on would be the Indiana Pacers. This is the team Stephenson walked away from in free agency because he did not get opportunities he wanted offensively. The Pacers have been decimated by injuries this year, particularly in the backcourt. Having Stephenson back could be a major boost to the team’s guard play for sure and might break Stephenson from his shooting woes. The Pacers would likely have to give up a couple of players the most likely players would be CJ Miles, Chris Copeland and maybe a future second round draft pick in exchange for the out-of-favor Stephenson. That would prevent the Pacers from giving up too much allowing them to still compete in the East and would give Charlotte a couple of talented players to work into its rotation.
Another team with plenty of guard injuries is the Minnesota Timberwolves. They struggled all year to stay healthy and have been one of the worst defensive teams in basketball this year ranking second to last in the league for points allowed per game. Stephenson would provide a much need defensive presence for a young Wolves team. He would also provide some veteran leadership on a team with rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine and second-year players Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad. In return, Charlotte could likely receive Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer. Both players have been rumored to be pieces Minnesota would like to move and could fill in as productive role players for the Hornets.
The last team is a bit of a wild card but apparently, the Brooklyn Nets are contemplating a fire sale. They would be looking move practically all of their star players. This could be the opportunity for Charlotte to snag a top player in a deal to get rid of Stephenson. The Hornets could land Kevin Garnett potentially along with a young guard in Sergey Karasev while shipping Stephenson, Cody Zeller and PJ Hariston to Brooklyn. This would give Charlotte better option at power forward creating a formidable frontcourt with Al Jefferson. It also allows the Nets to experiment with some young players.
The most likely scenario is Stephenson goes back to Indiana. I have no doubt though that Stephenson will be moved sooner rather than later. The NBA’s Eastern conference is wide open right now and if you can avoid matching up with either Chicago or Cleveland in the first round, you have a chance to run the table and win a playoff series. I think Charlotte, right now, is still thinking about competing. The Hornets made the playoffs last year and gave the Heat a run for its money in a couple of games in that series. We will see what Michael Jordan decides to do.