It seems that every piece of news coming out of the NBA this offseason has been about or has been connected to new (old?) Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James. James recently switched teams and his playoff opponent/nemesis Lance Stephenson will also be switching jerseys for the upcoming season.
Stephenson signed a three year contract with the Charlotte Hornets worth a reported $27 million on Wednesday. The Indiana Pacers, Stephenson’s former team, had offered the 23-year-old shooting guard a reported $44 million over five years, but the Brooklyn native decided to take his unique skill set to the Queen City instead.
While every NBA front office executive, coach, and fan knows about Stephenson’s on-court antics, I feel as if this is the perfect fit for both Stephenson and the Charlotte Hornets. It makes sense from a financial standpoint for both parties, and it fills the biggest need the Hornets were looking to address this offseason.
Charlotte was smart to only commit to a three year contract with Stephenson; with the third year being a team option. This means that if Stephenson still cannot get his attitude in check, the Hornets can part ways with him after only two seasons. For a talent like Stephenson, a three year deal at about $9 million per year is almost a bargain. Consider that the Toronto Raptors will be paying Landry Fields (the guy who let Jeremy Lin sleep on his coach during Linsanity, remember him??) approximately $8.5 million next season. Stephenson tallied almost 12 PPG, 4 APG, and 5 RPG more than Fields did last season.
For Stephenson, this deal also makes a ton a sense. He will be making about the same amount of money per season as the Indiana deal offered him, but he now has a lot more flexibility. And as stars such as James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard last season showed: flexibility is key. Stephenson will be 26 years old (assuming Charlotte doesn’t lock him up long-term in the coming years) when this contract expires. As a borderline All-Star this past season, Stephenson is betting on his ability to keep improving, and could seek a max contract for his next payday.
Filling a Need
Charlotte’s front office knew that they needed to upgrade the team’s offense this offseason, and the Stephenson signing certainly accomplishes this. Stephenson offers Hornets coach Steve Clifford a slash-and-kick two guard who led the NBA in triple-doubles last season. Offensive spacing was another issue for the Hornets last season, and Stephenson provides a boost with a respectable 35% shooting percentage from downtown. He should fit in nicely to Clifford’s defensive system, too. The Pacers were known for their defense last season, and Stephenson (along with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) now gives the Hornets the ability to lock down opposing wing players.
Overall, I feel as if this signing is a safe bet for the Charlotte Hornets that could provide the franchise with the potential star it has been looking for. The Hornets showed signs of improvement last year, making the playoffs for the second time in team history. A young core of Stephenson, Kemba Walker, Noah Vonleh, and Big Al Jefferson gives the Hornets a realistic chance to win a Top 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and home court advantage in the first round of next year’s playoffs. All of this hinges on Stephenson’s ability to mature, but I believe a change of scenery, a chip on his shoulder, and Michael Jordan’s presence will be more than enough to help change Stephenson’s attitude. Hornets fans should be excited for the future.