Before the whole of Lakers Twitter lynches me for even contemplating the thought of Lance Stephenson returning, (insert meme team gifs here), hear me out, the buyout market seems to be very sparse this year.
With targets like Darren Collison staying retired, along with Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist signing with other contenders, the buyout market post-trade deadline has not turned out the way the Los Angeles Lakers would have wanted.
Therefore, this forces the Lakers to look at not so conventional means to try and improve the team. Here stands a potential target that both the Lakers and Frank Vogel know well. Lance Stephenson.
Stephenson is unconventional. He is certainly not the player that he once was in Indiana. But he is certainly better than some options in the buyout market.
The main thing with potential free agent targets this late in the season is the level of trust people within the organisation would potentially have with the signing. Whether that be the front office, the coaching staff, or the players who they would be going to war with for the rest of the regular season and postseason stretch.
Lance Stephenson certainly fits the former as his best years have come under coach Frank Vogel whilst at Indiana. Under Coach Vogel at the Pacers, Stephenson blossomed into a defacto play-maker at the 2-spot on an NBA court.
He was also a hard-nosed defender who usually had the assignment of defending the best play-maker on the opposing teams consistently. He came up against one LeBron James multiple times in the playoffs. Most famously blowing into James’ ear.
At this late point in the season, he would certainly have Vogel’s trust from previous years and could also be vital as a secondary playmaker off the bench. There has been a dearth of play-making when James has been on the bench during games, so someone who can get some type of secondary play-making on this Lakers team would be very welcome.
Now, let’s get into realism. Lance Stephenson has only been a good NBA player whilst playing within the city of Indianapolis. There was something just special for Stephenson wearing the white, yellow and navy blue of the Pacers.
He has never replicated that outside of the Pacers though and there is no real evidence that he could either. He has averaged 26.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists this season in China but we need to be realistic. Playing for the Liaoning Flying Leopards is nowhere near the level of even the G-League, let alone the NBA.
His 3-point percentage in China is also a major red flag. Shooting 30% in a league where the 3-point line is a lot closer too is not a good sign. He also has not been a good NBA defender since he left the Pacers the 1st time round.
The things that you’d need him to do as an impact player off of the bench, (shoot well, play defense, play-making) he would not be able to do any of those things to a high enough level where it would be worth the Lakers bringing him back in a meaningful role. Even though it may make sense to some within the organization.
To conclude, while the Lakers would be right to start looking outside of the box to bring in potential secondary play-makers to help alleviate some of the flaws on the roster, and while he may be better than one of our back-up point guards on the team already, it may not be worth adding him in a meaningful role on the squad. It would be more uncertainty in the secondary play-maker role, and would not be worth the risk.
When we also look at playoff minutes, LeBron James will be hovering around the 38-40 minute mark. While the secondary play-making in those minutes could be vital, it would be better looking at other potential targets and hoping a certain team based in Manhattan buy out a former Clippers wing, in Maurice Harkless.
While many wouldn’t be totally against the move of bringing Lance Stephenson in. It doesn’t really move the needle at all for the Lakers in either direction.
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