As the injuries mounted (and mounted and mounted) in Memphis this season, Lance Stephenson put up numbers. Starting with when he was traded to Memphis — the Clippers, who wanted to move on from him — he averaged 14.2 points per game with a PER of 17.1 and a true shooting percentage of 53.6 percent, both a little above league averages. He helped keep the Grizzlies in the playoffs despite all the injuries.
That doesn’t mean the Grizzles wanted to keep him around, at least at $9.4 million per season.
Memphis declined their player option with him, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The Grizzlies declined the option in order to keep as much cap space as possible, sources said, as they hope to retain point guard Mike Conley, who is an unrestricted free agent after nine seasons with the Grizzlies.
Stephenson, 25, will become an unrestricted free agent. There remains interest in a possible return to the Grizzlies as well as interest from other organizations, sources said. Stephenson showed with Memphis that he can have an impact as a playmaker and source of energy.
Stephenson could have an impact as a sixth man, a guy who gets the ball in his hands more and can create with that unit. That said, when he went to a contender like the Clippers where he had to work off the ball more (because they’re not taking it out of Chris Paul and Blake Griffins’ hands) he struggled to find a role, struggled to fit in the locker room, and was slid out the door quickly. It’s going to be all about fit and buy in with Stephenson.
That and, how much will teams be willing pay him? And for how many years? My guess is he takes a pay cut by a couple million, but more importantly, teams will not want to be locked in long-term with him.