Rumors began late Tuesday evening when Bonnell confirmed the Hornets were pursuing Stephenson, after saying throughout free agency the Hornets were not interested in his talents.
Stephenson’s contract is modest compared to the max offer given to Gordon Hayward, and is only slightly more than the five-year, $44 million contract offered to him by the Indiana Pacers.
The signing will come as a sigh of relief to some Hornets fans, many of whom have questioned Rich Cho’s free agency tactics so far. Looking only at the positives Stephenson brings to Charlotte makes the signing seem simple. Lance Stephenson had a break-out season in 2013-14, averaging 13.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists. His 3-point shooting percentage and usage rate have increased the past three seasons as well, and he is a major defensive talent.
Others will be discouraged by the Stephenson signing. By now, all NBA fans are aware of Lance’s antics. From flopping and ear blowing, to calling out the best player in the league during the playoffs only, Lance Stephenson is undoubtedly a high-maintenance, often combustible player.
What does Stephenson’s signing mean for the Charlotte Hornets next season? Several things now appear evident:
First, Charlotte management was not comfortable going into next season with a perimeter combination of Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, P.J. Hairston and Gary Neal. Henderson, a team captain last season, was unable to hold his own against league-average guards, looking particularly bad against Dwyane Wade in the playoffs. The others don’t possess the same all-around game as Stephenson. The Hornets are committed to Al Jefferson, and Stephenson will provide more spacing for the big man.
Next, the signing means that the Hornets must really believe their locker room is cohesive enough to withstand Stephenson’s moodiness. The 2013-14 Pacers were a dramatic bunch, culminating in their near-collapse against the Hawks in the opening round of the playoffs. Head Coach Steve Clifford has touted the Hornets leadership as one of the team’s biggest strengths. Stephenson will certainly test Charlotte’s leaders.
Finally, the Hornets management must have looked at the Eastern Conference landscape and been unsatisfied with the Hornet’s spot in the crowd. Cleveland obviously improved with the LeBron James signing. The Bulls will be markedly better with the return of Derrick Rose and the addition of Pau Gasol. Washington, Toronto, and even Miami appear to be locks for the post-season, with Atlanta, New York, Brooklyn, and Detroit looking more competitive than last season. Adding Lance not only strengthens Charlotte’s standing within the East, but simultaneously hurts an opponent.
What do you think? Will Lance Stephenson fit as a Hornet? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!