Lance Stephenson’s season in Charlotte was a disaster. There’s no other good word for it (at least that we can publish here). He shot just 37.6 percent overall and 17 percent from three (yet he took more threes as a percentage of his shots than he had in his career), and he never fit in with the Hornets offense. He spent more and more time riding the bench as the season wore on.
The Clippers acquired Stephenson in a trade (for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes), hoping that a change of scenery — plus the leadership of Chris Paul and Doc Rivers — could find the Indiana version of Stephenson. The one that was a difference maker on both ends of the court.
Steve Clifford, the Hornets coach, told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated Stephenson will fit in much better with what the Clippers run than what the Hornets did.
And that’s where I think that playing with the Clippers, who have more perimeter shooting than we do, will help him. I mean, his game is pick-and-roll. He can drive it, and he can make all the passes, he can hit the screener, whether the screener is rolling or flaring. And he can hit all of the perimeter options, and he has great size and a great knack for making the right decision. And with us, again, because we weren’t able to find ways where he was on the floor with a lot of perimeter shooting, he didn’t always have the room he was accustomed to to turn the corner, get in the paint and get the ball going to the basket. And if you look at it statistically, the biggest difference in his game really was the number of layups he was able to attempt here versus the year before in Indiana, and those turned into pull-up jumpers, which is not his strength.
Clifford is right, the last two years he was in Indiana 37 percent of Stephenson’s shots came at the rim, but that fell to 29 percent in Charlotte. Teams packed the paint against the Hornets, who had the worst three-point shooting percentage in the league. That said, with the Clippers the ball is usually in the hands of Chris Paul or Jamal Crawford, can Stephenson adjust to being off the ball for long stretches?
The larger questions and concerns with Stephenson are in the mental aspects of the game — two teams in a row were happy to move Stephenson and get him out of their locker rooms. The Clipper locker room is unlike most any other in the league, where players’ children have the run of the locker room after games, and the atmosphere can be pretty light. But it’s also a team with legitimate title aspirations. Rivers and Paul treat players like adults and expect them to respond accordingly, to be mature and professional. Can Stephenson do that?
If so, and if what Clifford said about Stephenson on the court pans out, this could be a good move for Los Angeles.