In the offseason, Lance Stephenson signed a three-year $27 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Despite the fact that the ink has just finished drying on that contract, numerous NBA teams are reportedly interested in the versatile guard.
ESPN says that as many as seven teams have expressed some kind of interest in Stephenson, including the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets. Real GM also reports the Denver Nuggets are one of those teams. The Nuggets’ interest, per the site, seems to come from a good relationship between Stephenson and head coach Brian Shaw. That seems to jive with an article from the Denver Post where Shaw even compared Stephenson’s demeanor to that of All-Star Kevin Garnett.
“Obviously he does some stuff out there on the floor that a lot of people don’t agree with — blowing in LeBron’s ear; and a couple of years before that when he was doing the choke sign and all of that. That’s just part of maturity with him. But it’s also part of his edge. You see Kevin Garnett on the court, and he’s always talking sometimes to the opponent, but a lot of times to himself, just trying to do what it takes to get himself pumped up to win the game. Lance is much the same way.”
Shaw went on to say that Stephenson is misunderstood, reminiscing back to his days when he coached him as an assistant with the Indiana Pacers.
Last season, Stephenson’s breakout year earned him the big contract he received this summer – the guard averaged career-highs in points (13.8) and rebounds (7.2) in 2013-14. Stephenson also shot a career-best 49 percent from the floor, connecting on more than 35 percent of his three-point shots. Only 23 years old at the time, the hope was that he was finally ready to turn into an all-star.
This year in Charlotte, however, Stephenson has taken a step back.
Stephenson is still averaging more than ten points per game, but has been a far less efficient scorer. Thus far, he is knocking down only 38.6 percent of his shots and a dismal 15.1 percent of those from long range. Stephenson’s rebounding and assists are still on par with his totals from last season, but there’s no denying that his offensive game has taken a hit.
Currently 24, though, Stephenson will continue to draw interest. He is young and likely not yet reached his prime, and his contract is a manageable one if a team believes that he’s a breakout star in the making. In addition, he has shown pretty steady improvement in his career and, last season with the Pacers, proved he is capable of playing well in the postseason.
For now, reports indicate that the Hornets are willing to hold onto him, not receiving an offer they deemed worthy of a trade. The team also believes that a groin injury has kept Stephenson from playing full-speed.
If a deal is made before the deadline, however, the Nuggets appear to be a solid fit. Denver expected to have solid depth at shooting guard with Randy Foye backing up Arron Afflalo, but Foye suffered a quadriceps tear and has been out of the lineup since late November. That’s forced rookie Gary Harris into the lineup a bit more and there’s no doubt that Denver could use a little depth at the position. When the relationship factor with head coach Brian Shaw is added in, Stephenson seems like a good fit in Denver. Foye is due back at some point, but Stephenson’s presence also helps since he has significantly more playoff experience (42 games to Foye’s 11).
A deal with the Nuggets has been temporarily placed on hold, but don’t be surprised if the two teams are talking trade for Stephenson again soon.
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