Should the Lakers Take Another Look at Lance Stephenson?

Los Angeles Lakers' Lance Stephenson (6) reacts to a missed 3-point shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
(Image/Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

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.

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(Image/Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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. 

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(Image/ABS CBN Sports)

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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Love You Always, Kobe

(Image/Elsa/Getty Images)

Dear Kobe,

First of all, before we get into anything else, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for coming into my life when I was a 2-year-old Laker fan, making me fall in love with the game at that young age.

Seeing you with Shaq and winning 3 championships cemented my love for the Forum Blue and Gold. The Number 8, and afro were iconic. The defensive chops, the crossover that got Scottie Pippen out of his shoes before ‘The Lob’. The way you took over the finals against the Pacers after Diesel fouled out was only something you could do. And it was only the beginning.

When you switched to 24, that’s when the second act started. The Black Mamba. Vino, as you aged gracefully. Another 2 championships with Pau and Lamar Odom and you did it all with class and humility. You also beat those guys from Boston in green that we will always be grateful for. 2012-13, when you willed a depleted, incredibly hurt the team to the playoffs; averaging 46 minutes a game until your body just said enough.

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(Image/Yahoo! Sports)

What you did for USA basketball, and brought that back to the forefront was amazing. Without you, the Redeem team never would have happened, the 2012 Olympics were great too. And we would not have had that iconic game against Spain. I just hope you apologized to Pau after the fact.

As a father and outside of the basketball realm, you were in your zone. Still, the same Mamba Mentality that we saw and loved as a player but focusing it into different areas. People work for an Academy Award for DECADES, and then there was you, Kobe Bean, coming in clutch 2 years after retiring, conquering that world too. Your bond with Gianna was special and she would have grown up to be special too.

Mambacita was going to run wild in the NCAA and WNBA and be the person to carry along your legacy, be the best ever and have just as many records as the Mamba had. She had the same glint in her eye as you did, and you could just tell how proud you were of her, and that her excelling was more important to you than anything you had accomplished in your career.

I just want to say thank you, Kobe. Thank you for your 20 years in LA, for your 18 All-Stars, for your MVP, 2 Finals MVP’s, 33,643 Points, 7047 Rebounds and 6306 Assists. Thank you for the 5 titles you brought to our franchise. Thank you for instilling a Mamba Mentality into everything I do, making sure that I’m never satisfied with 2nd place. You gave this Bosnian Boy in Manchester a license to dream and taught him to work hard for each of those dreams to come true…

I still can’t talk about you in the past tense, and I still can’t come to grips with the fact there is no more Kobe Bryant in the world I live in. You wouldn’t want me to be distraught, you would have wanted all of us to instill Mamba Mentality even in these tough times and this is what I’m going to do. All my achievements will now be dedicated to you, my hero and idol.

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Hopefully, our paths will cross someday, in a place that none of us understand.

As you beautifully put, ‘I’ll always be that kid, With the rolled-up socks, Garbage can in the corner, 05 seconds on the clock, Ball in my hands.’ All because of you.

Love you always,