Lance Stephenson may have as much upside as any player in the NBA. Considering the fact that he was an unrestricted free agent this summer, it was assumed Stephenson would get a big payday from either the Indiana Pacers—the team he’s spent the previous four seasons with—or from elsewhere. It turns out that he wanted to take his talents elsewhere.
Early Wednesday morning, the Charlotte Hornets and Stephenson agreed to a deal reportedly worth $27 million over three years, per a report from ESPN’s Chris Broussard. The last year of the deal also has a team option attached to it. Earlier in the offseason, Stephenson reportedly turned down a five-year, $44 million deal to return to Indiana, likely showing his desire to separate himself from the Pacers organization.
At just 23 years old, Stephenson had the best season of his career last year. In 78 games, Stephenson put up 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 0.7 steals per game while shooting 49.1 percent from the floor and 35.2 percent from three. However, last season for Stephenson also wasn’t without unnecessary playground ball-handling in big situations, blowing in the ear of LeBron James, and other antics of that nature.
The word enigma seems the most apt to describe Stephenson. He’s one of the best young players in the league, largely because he’s able to contribute in so many different ways. With his vast skill-set and youth, his potential is surely enticing and is almost certainly what the Hornets are looking at when it comes to this signing.
However, the downside with Stephenson is also evident in the signing with Charlotte. There’s the reason Stephenson wasn’t thrown a max-deal and why the Hornets gave themselves an out after only two years in the deal: there’s a chance he could be cancerous to a team.
The rap that has followed Stephenson for some time now is that he’s a great talent with an even larger personality. To make him a successful cog in your system, he has to be in the right environment that cultivates his personality and skills in the proper way. If not, he’s liable to foul up the chemistry of a team and become a problem within a franchise.
The signing of Stephenson could wind up being huge for Charlotte. They are in need of an upgrade on the wings and the Hornets could be getting that with this signing. However, they also must be aware that there is an inherent risk with bringing in Stephenson. Steve Clifford and his staff, as well as leaders like Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, have to create a situation that will allow Stephenson to contribute positively. If that doesn’t happen, this signing could be looked back on as more of a debacle than a success.