Mar 19, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson (1) goes up for a dunk against the Orlando Magic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers won 95-73. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Is Lance Stephenson Elite?

Newly acquired Charlotte Hornet Lance Stephenson belongs in elite company for his on-court production during the 2013-2014 season.  Since 1994, his season averages of 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists have only been met or exceed 60 times by 25 players. The list includes all-time greats like Charles Barkely, Scottie Pippen and Kevin Garnett.  The King himself, LeBron James, has surpassed the “Lance Line” eight times.

Of course, making any sort of meaningful statistical inference from one season is foolish.  As  you can see in the table below, Lance’s production is eclipsed by nearly every other member of the club each time they met the “Lance Line” benchmarks. Indeed, comparing Lance’s numbers to Pippen’s ’94 season, for instance, is to compare apples to oranges.  Pippen was third in MVP voting in ’94, while Lance became a league-wide pariah in ’14.

This is not to say Lance’s ’13-’14 stats should be marginalized, in fact, they should be somewhere all Hornets fans place their faith.  Take a closer look at the list.  For the most part, all members were All-Star players at some point during their careers (yes, Brad Miller was an All-Star), and many are/will be in the Hall of Fame.

And there is something to be said for the rarity of putting up the type of numbers Lance did last year.  With only around three players producing such numbers, the very fact that Lance did what he did is remarkable.

Most pundits, including those writing for Swarm and Sting, believe Lance is a great fit for Charlotte, and I am no different. But, I do suspect his statistical output to change.

Lance’s rebounding output will almost certainly decrease.  Head Coach Steve Clifford’s system places an enormous emphasis on getting back in transition to limit fast break opportunities.  The trade-off is fewer offensive rebound chances for wing players.  Only Michael Kidd-Gilchrist attacked the offensive glass with regularity last season.

Lance’s assist numbers will be interesting to watch.  He will be playing with a more creative point guard in Charlotte with Kemba Walker (6.1 assists per game) than he did in Indiana.  With the departure of Josh McRoberts, the Hornets may have to count on Lance to create for his teammates as well as himself, keeping his assist numbers high. Regardless, Lance brings more creativity in the half-court than any other Charlotte wing player.

Scoring is the area where I suspect Lance will see a significant improvement.  The Hornets signed Lance to add fire-power to a bottom-tier offense.  Lance is an excellent pick-and-roll player, an improving 3-point threat, and an overall efficient scorer.  His true shooting percentage (TS%), a stat taking 2s, 3s and free throws into account, is 56.4%.  That is better than any current Hornet other than Gary Neal and Bismack Biyombo, who basically only dunks.  Lance’s TS% is in the same ballpark as Chandler Parsons, Damian Lillard and Kyle Lowry.  I would not be surprised to see Lance average over 17 points per game next season given the increased number of open looks he’ll likely see.

Lance Stephenson is no Scottie Pippen, Grant Hill, or Chris Webber, and certainly not LeBron James.  But Lance is Lance.  The purpose of this comparison is not to create impossibly lofty expectations for Lance in Charlotte, but to illustrate the sort of talented player the Hornets now have.  Lance fills up the stat sheet.  He often fills it with turnovers.  He sometimes gets triple doubles.  But Lance always brings a dynamic offensive and defensive punch that could propel the Hornets deep into the playoffs.

The 13 / 7 / 4.5 Club – Averages From First Year Meeting Benchmarks
First Year Name Points Rebounds Assists Years Total
1994 Scottie Pippen 22 8.7 5.6 2
1994 David Robinson 29.8 10.7 4.8 1
1994 Charles Barkley 21.6 11.2 4.6 3
1995 Larry Johnson 18.8 7.2 4.6 1
1995 Chris Webber 20.1 9.6 4.7 8
1996 Clyde Drexler 19.3 7.2 5.8 1
1996 Grant Hill 20.2 9.8 6.9 4
1997 Anthony Mason 16.2 11.4 5.7 1
1999 Toni Kukoc 18.8 7 5.3 1
2000 Kevin Garnett 22.9 11.8 5 5
2000 Jason Kidd 14.3 7.2 10.1 5
2001 Tracy McGrady 26.8 7.5 4.6 2
2001 Lamar Odom 17.2 7.8 5.2 3
2001 Jamal Mashburn 20.1 7.6 5.4 1
2001 Antoine Walker 23.4 8.9 5.5 3
2002 Steve Francis 21.6 7 6.4 1
2003 Karl Malone 20.6 7.8 4.7 1
2005 LeBron James 27.2 7.4 7.2 9
2006 Pau Gasol 20.4 8.9 4.6 1
2006 Brad Miller 15 7.8 4.7 1
2013 Kevin Durant 28.1 7.9 4.6 2
2014 Lance Stephenson 13.8 7.2 4.6 1
2014 Nicolas Batum 13 7.5 5.1 1
2014 Joakim Noah* 12.6 11.3 5.4 1
2014 Kevin Love* 26.1 12.5 4.4 1
* Very close to benchmarks and included for sake of comparison
All stats taken from www.basketball-reference.com

Tags: Charlotte Hornets Lance Stephenson Stats

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