The Charlotte Hornets came into the offseason looking to make a splash in free agency, but they weren’t able to get one of the top players on the market. They made a maximum contract offer to Utah Jazz restricted free agent Gordon Hayward, but the Jazz decided to match the offer and bring him back.
Finally, they were able to land the prize that they were rumored to want all offseason long. Charlotte signed Lance Stephenson to a three-year, $27 million deal and couldn’t be more excited about the future with him as one of their leaders.
Stephenson had a career season with the Indiana Pacers last season, but hurt himself due to the on-court antics that he showed in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. He ended up averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game, and he improved quite a bit on the defensive end of the court as well.
That being said, there are still quite a few areas where he’ll need to improve to reach his full potential.
Despite all of the positives in his game that will be talked about later, his main issues are mental. He is extremely fast in the open court and can create a fast break out of nothing, but those fast breaks can end up resulting in turnovers.
The Hornets are going to offer him an even more up-tempo offensive scheme, and that could either help him in a major way or do the exact opposite.
All of that being said, there are so many positives about his game that fit perfectly well with what the Hornets are looking to do. Stephenson’s scoring ability is on the rise, and he is a much better all-around scorer than Gerald Henderson was last season.
His offensive potential is through the roof, and he took a major step forward in every category last season. He improved his 3-point shooting percentage from 33 percent to 35.2 percent, and also improved his overall field goal percentage from 46 percent to 49.1 percent.
There is no denying the numbers that he put up, and he has been in the gym working out hard all offseason long.
Not only was his scoring ability much improved last season, he also improved as a playmaker. He led the NBA in triple-doubles with five, and he was one of the most consistent rebounders as a guard.
The Hornets already have a great playmaker in Walker, but the addition of Stephenson will allow him to focus on his offensive ability even more than he has been able to throughout his career.
There are some concerns surrounding Stephenson heading to Charlotte, especially because of the reputation that he has gotten as a ball hog. Roy Hibbert said that there were “selfish players” on the team last year, and reports have come out stating that he was talking specifically about Stephenson.
He will have to deal with Walker and Jefferson being the No. 1 and 2 scoring options on the floor, and being a playmaker for them before he looks to score himself.
It’s very hard to grade this signing because of how unpredictable Stephenson is, but he does seem to be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Hornets. Charlotte hasn’t necessarily been a team that fans look at and think of as contenders in recent years, and this move certainly helps them take a step in that direction.
The Hornets may not be a championship contender this season, but they definitely have a chance of competing and surprising some people in the playoffs.
Overall, this move is going to put the Hornets back on the map in the Eastern Conference. They are going to have to contend with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, and Indiana Pacers, but outside of those three teams the entire conference is up for grabs.
Stephenson should prove to be a big pick up, and the fans in Charlotte are going to love the playmaking ability to he brings to the court.
Lance Stephenson Signing Grade: A-