Should the Charlotte Hornets Keep Lance Stephenson?


The trade deadline is fast approaching (February 19th) and many in Charlotte are wondering what is going to happen to the big offseason signing, Lance Stephenson.

We’ve heard his name in trade rumors since December, yet nothing has come to fruition. He’s had a very up and down (mostly down) season, which has really hurt his trade value – and that’s likely the reason he’s still sporting teal and purple.

The Hornets organization has recently said they’re not giving Lance up just to get rid of him, they want assets in return. They must have changed their minds from a few weeks ago, as they were reportedly going to part ways with him for a veteran journeyman and a young guy with, let’s face it, a pretty low ceiling in Jarrett Jack and Jeremy Lamb, respectively.

Jan 24, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard

Lance Stephenson

(1) shoots the ball during the second half against the New York Knicks at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Hornets won 76-71. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

After that, followed rumors that he would be returning to his hometown of Brooklyn for former seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson. Johnson is getting up there in age, has battled tendinitis, and is currently signed under a massive contract, but he brings far more talent than the previous trade rumors would have. The only issue is that, according to rumors, Gerald Henderson and Marvin Williams would have been heading up north with Stephenson.

Regardless, the Joe Johnson rumors still seemed to be the more favored of the two amongst the Charlotte community. Yeah, it’s that bad.

When the Hornets were losing, it was easy to say that Stephenson had to go, but now that they’ve seemed to have turned things around, the story changes a bit.

By no means is Lance Stephenson the reason for the turnaround – he’s averaging 7.1 points, 5.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.9 turnovers since returning from injury on January 17th. No, he’s not the reason, but trading him could disrupt the reason.

The Hornets have been winning without at least one of their two stars, Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, because they’re excelling at team basketball as of late.

Specifically, they’re playing great team defense, only giving up 89.3 points per game since January 1st (the only team holding opponents under 90 points during that stretch).

Trading Stephenson would mean bringing new guys in or taking guys out – or both. That would undoubtedly interfere with chemistry. Doing this to bring in more talent is one thing, but doing it just to get rid of Lance is entirely different.

Basketball might be the sport in which synergy and team chemistry matter the most. Just look at a team like the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve managed to stay consistently great for so long because they don’t interfere with their core group, allowing them to focus on their opponents, as opposed to focusing on how to play with each other.

Even if you bring in more talent, it takes time to learn how to win together. When LeBron James first got to Miami, and even this season after his return to Cleveland, it took those teams a little while to get things going.

Charlotte can’t afford a few weeks of feeling new guys out, they’ve already dropped too many games early on in the season for that. Even though they’ve climbed up to the seventh seed in the East, they’re only four games ahead of the twelfth spot. One bad month could kill the playoff dream as quickly as it’s been reborn.

At least on the surface, Stephenson has embraced coming off of the bench and seems determined to contribute to the team any way that he can. We know he has talent – he led the league in triple-doubles last season – so a full season and an additional offseason on the team could turn things around for next year, or at least allow him to improve his trade value.

At this point, unless a great, unexpected trade comes about, the Charlotte Hornets are much better off hanging on to Lance Stephenson.

Next: Weekly Roundup: The Hornets Keep Winning

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