Los Angeles Clippers: Lance Stephenson Trade Was A Mistake

Mar 7, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Lance Stephenson (1) rebounds in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Lance Stephenson (1) rebounds in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

Lance Stephenson is reviving his career with the Memphis Grizzlies and making Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers look foolish for dealing him away.

“Hindsight is 20/20.”

The origins of this famous, often-used phrase are unknown, but it very well could’ve originated from a trade of some sort. If this saying was never coined previously, it’s very possible that those words would come off of the lips of Doc Rivers or Los Angeles Clippers fans regarding the team’s deadline trade of Lance Stephenson and a first round pick for Jeff Green.

The trade was made official at the very end of the trade deadline on Feb. 18. While one month certainly isn’t long enough to properly value the trade, it hasn’t gotten off to a promising start for the Clippers.

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In a trend that has become a little too familiar for the Clippers, the player they sent away is looking much better than they did in Los Angeles while the player they brought in is struggling.

On Saturday night, the Clippers will get an even closer look at Stephenson when the Clippers and Grizzlies face off in their first matchup since the trade.

Stephenson has had a rebirth in Memphis. He’s averaged 15.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in 26.7 minutes a contest with the Grizzlies. When you give those numbers the “per 36 minute” treatment, they rise up to 20.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. The only players in the league to average those numbers for the entire season are Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Blake Griffin.

A fair counterpoint to Stephenson’s play would be to say that Stephenson has had to do this with the Grizzlies missing Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph for most of this time. Stephenson has appeared in 13 games with Memphis and has been a major reason why the Grizzlies have been able to go 7-6 despite being the most undermanned team in the league.

Meanwhile, Jeff Green hasn’t been lighting the world on fire in Los Angeles. Green’s numbers are slightly down from his Memphis days, which should be expected with his slight drop in usage rate. Green’s putting up 10.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in 27.1 minutes of action per night for the Clippers.

His short time with the Clippers has served as a great microcosm for his inconsistency issues he’s had throughout his career. Green has had six games of scoring 15 or more points, but also has three games in which he hasn’t scored at all.

The numbers are solid but unspectacular, and the team results have been a tad disappointing with Green.

Like Stephenson and the Grizzlies, Green has played 13 games with the Clippers and are 7-6 since Green joined the team. The schedule has been harder as of late, but the Clippers haven’t had much success and have gone 1-4 against the Warriors, Spurs, Cavaliers and Thunder in that time.

That type of record and the manner of the losses (24-point loss against the Cavs, 21-point loss to Spurs, 12-point loss to Thunder) haven’t given the team much optimism for their chances of beating the top dogs of the league in the playoffs.

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The Clippers knew when they acquired Stephenson that he’s the type of player who can make you look really smart for believing in him or really dumb for the same reason. In this case, the Clippers don’t look too great.

In fairness, the Clippers weren’t the only one to make this mistake as this very writer ruled the trade as a positive for the Clippers at the time of the deal. Stephenson had spent his time with the Clippers in-and-out of the rotation and didn’t mesh well with the Clippers collection of ball-dominant guards. If you can trade a player who is barely in the rotation for a serviceable starter who fits the needs of your team, you do it.

Stephenson is simply playing too well and it’s worth wondering if he just wasn’t used properly with the Clippers and that the Grizzlies have what it takes to get the best out of the talented, but unpredictable Stephenson.

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When you add in that the Clippers added in a first round pick and that Green could head elsewhere this offseason, the Clippers’ side of the deadline deal looks borderline disastrous.