Lance Stephenson is Charlotte-bound after accepting a 3-year, $27.4 million deal with Michael Jordan’s Hornets. The team holds the third-year option for a little more than $9 million.
Why would Stephenson reject a 5-year, $44 million offer from Indianapolis to take less money?
This one’s easy: Lance Stephenson turns 24 in September. He hasn’t even hit his prime, although he led the NBA in triple-doubles last season and averaged 13.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.6 apg. Those numbers are comparable with Chandler Parsons (16.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.0 apg) who just got a whopping $15 million per year from Dallas. They even shoot similarly from the field – Stephenson 49/35; Parsons 47/37. Parsons is a nice defender; Stephenson is better. They both were 2nd round picks!
Two significant differences – Stephenson plays shooting guard but is at his best when he has the ball in his hands to create; Parsons excels thanks to good court spacing (helps to have Howard and Harden, obviously). And then there’s the attitude thing – Parsons (nickname: Chandsome) is a clean-cut role player; Stephenson has a checkered history, clearly wants to be the man on the court, and didn’t help himself at all with his silly antics against the Heat this season. He came off as a hot-headed irritant. Blowing in LeBron’s ear – for the second time – could not have been viewed positively by NBA front offices. [Ed. A 3rd difference ... Parsons was a restricted free agent; Lance was unrestricted.]
In a perfect world, Stephenson will grow from last season’s experiences, become more team-oriented and maintain the fire he brings to the court while shelving the buffoonery. He’s betting on himself that three years from now, he’ll become someone worthy of significantly larger deal, perhaps as the final piece to a Championship puzzle.
Between Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Stephenson, Charlotte will definitely defend. And now they add a scorer who does a little bit of everything. (There’s little point in discussing how much he’ll hurt the Pacers, because now Larry Bird has to shift into, ‘well crap, how do we replace that?’ Solomon Hill? Chris Copeland? It hasn’t been the greatest offseason in Indiana, but the Pacers remain a playoff team in the East. Maybe they take back Evan Turner at a sharp discount and hope for the best?)
Earlier this week I had Charlotte as the 8th seed in the East with around 41 wins. Several large question marks remain: Will the three young kids (Zeller, Hairston, Vonleh) be able to produce, can Al Jefferson stay healthy, and will Stephenson morph into more of a team player? If all of these break the right way (extremely unlikely), I can see the Bobcats finishing as high as 4th in the East.
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