The Clippers did the scary thing and traded for Lance Stephenson.
Now, they must figure out how to use him.
Clippers coach/president Doc Rivers on The Beat 980, via Arash Markazi of ESPN:
“I like that [Stephenson] can play multiple positions — really 2, 3 and 1 — because he’s a terrific passer,” Rivers told The Beast 980. “I don’t know if I made the trade for him to be a starter, per se, I look at him really more to be a utility player that can come in and play literally three different positions for us. When you look at us, we needed toughness and more athleticism and we get that.”
But if Stephenson isn’t going to be a starter, who’s going to be the team’s starting small forward for 2015-16?
“We find him, we work, we still have work to do,” Rivers said. “In the worst case and it’s not a bad case [Lance starts], and I still think that Lance is an upgrade at that position even if we wanted to start him. But I’m planning on doing more things this summer without saying much. We’re not done, clearly.”
I like the idea of Stephenson coming off the bench. He’s best with the ball in his hands, but the Clippers are way better running their offense through Chris Paul. Even Blake Griffin, who has developed impressive playmaking skills, is probably a better option due the mismatches created by being a focal point from the frontcourt.
The Clippers’ bench could certainly use more punch. However, Stephenson’s skills are somewhat redundant with Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers. That’s probably more of a problem for Crawford and Rivers, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, than for Stephenson.
The bigger concern than managing the bench is finding a starting small forward to replace Matt Barnes, who was dealt to the Hornets – though the issues could be related. The Clippers could try trading Crawford and a draft pick for a wing, as they did last season. They could also attempt to sign Paul Pierce with the mid-level exception.
Overall, I’m with Rivers. Starting Stephenson wouldn’t be the end of the world. But the Clippers should attempt to form a roster that doesn’t require him to start.