Should the Celtics target Lance Stephenson?

The Charlotte Hornets are in a bad way, and many have begun to point the finger at the recently acquired Lance Stephenson. While he clearly doesn't deserve all of the blame, Stephenson has been nothing short of abysmal in his short time with Charlotte. So bad, that many believe that it's time for the Hornets to move on.

Eric Blaisdell and I exchanged a few emails wondering if the Celtics should be intrigued by Stephenson's availability.

From: Matt Richissin


As you know, you and I are two chill bro's who occasionally exchange e-mails about a current basketball topic, and sometimes our exchanges are so interesting that we turn it into a post on CelticsLife. But when that happens it's all very-organic and not at all pre-mediated.

That being said, there's a few conflicting reports out there about Lance Stephenson potentially being available. Some reports saying that people are calling the Hornets, others saying the Hornets are the aggressors.

Let's pretend the latter is true, and the Hornets are looking to trade him. You're Danny Ainge, are you at all interested in Lance Stpehenson?

From: Eric Blaisdell


This is a tough one. Lance Stephenson is an intriguing, if not frustrating, player. He does so many things on the court, but he's not truly elite at any of them. Everyone figured that he'd be the missing piece to take the Charlotte Hornets to the next level with Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. As they sit at 6-17 (behind the Boston Celtics), that has, so far, not been the case. Even though the team isn't doing so hot, Stephenson's numbers are pretty similar to what he did in Indiana. He's averaging 10.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 5 apg, compared to 13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 4.6 apg last year. The biggest difference comes in his shooting percentages. Stephenson's three-point shooting has fallen off the planet, as he shot 35.2 percent behind the arc last year and is shooting an atrocious 16.7 percent now. His two-pointers have also dipped from 54.5 percent to 44 percent. Even so, he's still a great talent and many teams should, and probably do, want his services.

Any talk about the Celtics' future has to start with Rajon Rondo. Is the team going to be built around him or will the rebuild go down without his services? So I'll look at this from both perspectives.

With Rondo, Stephenson would be an upgrade over Avery Bradley. Stephenson's never really had a passer of Rondo's caliber feeding him the rock for high-percentage shots and it could be the key to turning his awful season around. At the same time, he wouldn't really move the needle in terms of the Celtics becoming a contender again. He could help solidify a playoff spot, but not much more than that. In a perfect world, Stephenson should be the team's third best player. They'd still need a No. 1 or No. 2 stud to play with Rondo.

Without Rondo, a Marcus Smart/Stephenson backcourt would be a ton of fun to watch. Their intangibles alone make the pairing pretty exciting on paper. I'd still love to see what Bradley and Smart could do together for a season, but Stephenson clearly has more talent.

The question is, what does Boston give up to get him? I'd take him, but I wouldn't give up the farm to do so.

From: Matt Richissin


In retrospect, I feel like we should've seen this coming. Not that he'd be this bad, but he's clearly a pretty poor fit for that team. A team building around Walker and Jefferson needs to surround itself w/ catch and shoot guys. Between Jefferson's post game and Kemba's tendency to over dribble, there's not really as big of a need for a secondary playmaker like Stephenson. Shot creation isn't that big of a need for them, and that's really what Stephenson does well.

As a player, I kind of like Lance but I do worry about his personality. He's had some truly horrific events off the court, and even on the court he's had a few scuffles with teammates (including one with Evan Turner). I'm not a huge locker room chemistry guy, but I do worry about the potential negative influence he could have on a younger locker room.

But I agree with you, he's an intriguing enough talent. As far as what to give up for him? Here's what I got, let me know what you think

Trade One

Charlotte receives: Jeff Green
Boston receives: Lance Stephenson

Trade Two

Charlotte receives: Brandon Bass, Marcus Thornton, Clippers 2015 first
Boston receives: Lance Stephenson, Gerald Henderson

The second trade would need to be processed as two separate trades.

From: Eric Blaisdell

I'm also not too big into chemistry issues. That's a problem for the coach and veterans to deal with.

I'd swap Green for Stephenson in a heartbeat, but it would make an already funky roster even more funky. Outside of Gerald Wallace (yuck) and James Young (nowhere near ready), Green is the only true SF the team has. Evan Turner can play that spot, but he's better suited as a ballhandler instead of taking on the LeBron James' of the world every night. Replacing Green with Stephenson just adds another guard/wing on a team loaded with guards and wings. I know when a team is rebuilding they should take all the talent they can and see what comes out, but this trade surely means more losses for Boston. Great for that draft pick, not so great if the team really is trying to keep Rondo around.

The second trade makes more sense to me, though Charlotte may want more than expiring deals and a not-so-great first rounder for Stephenson who still has value. The issue then becomes who do you play? You'd have Rondo and Stephenson starting with Bradley and Smart coming off the bench. That's great depth for a contender, but Boston couldn't have envisioned paying Bradley an average of $8 million per year as a bench guy going forward. And even if they are fine with Bradley on the bench, he may not be.

How about Bradley and a future pick for Stephenson? Charlotte gets Bradley's defense and spot-up shooting, while Boston gets its starter to build around at SG. Win win win.

From: Matt Richissin

That's interesting.

I see some real pro's and con's in a trade with Bradley. And I guess that's a pretty decent sign that it's a relatively fair deal. To me, you don't need the first round pick.


I'm a big fan of Avery Bradley. He's like a security blanket for me. I know who he is. I know what he can do. I know that he has a very definitive skill set and role on this team, and as much as people discuss "3 & D" guys (note: I'm not too concerned with his shooting numbers), I think they're harder to come by then a lot of other people think.

Lance Stephenson is not a security blanket. Quite the opposite. He's an ultra-talented guy whose put together about a season and a half of well played basketball. And when it comes to his potential role here, I'm not as sold as you are. I see a lot of potential for the same kind of issues he's having with Charlotte, mainly his ability to play alongside Rondo; they're not the same player by any means, but they share a lot of the same characteristics. They're both above average shot creators, with limited shooting ability, who really need the ball in their hands to be effective.

But, there's some pro's to that last part too....


Stephenson absolutely has a higher ceiling (than Bradley), and he could serve as Rondo insurance for us.

My biggest concern with a post-Rondo life is playmaking/shot-creating. Anytime Avery Bradley puts the ball on the floor I get nervous, and while I love Marcus Smart, I'm not entirely convinced he can be a team's primary ball handler. I'm sure some of it is rookie tentativeness, but outside of post ups and open court scenarios, he so rarely looks to push the ball forward.

Stephenson could provide us some flexibility in the event that we decide to either trade or let Rondo walk. He won't be the team's point guard, but he can do enough to lighten the burden much like he did for George Hill with the Pacers.

And I know that 'upside' is a term that's often thrown around, but it's a real thing w/ Stephenson. He's still just 24 years old, and there was a good stretch last year when he was playing like a top 5 shooting guard.

I mean, remember what he did to Courtney Lee last year?

What's funny is that I kind of walked into this exercise thinking I'd want to stay away from Lance, now I'm starting to warm up to the idea.

I'm curious to get your take on this, though, Eric. As someone who occasionally questions Rajon Rondo's overall value, you've clearly just totally a Rondo h8r (I kid, of course) - do you really think that they could coincide on the court?

From: Eric Blaisdell

I do. While it's true that Rondo needs the ball in his hands a ton, there will still be plenty of opportunity for Stephenson to do what he does best. He can take over when a Rondo sits or Rondo can pass it to Stephenson and let him work, sort of like when Paul Pierce was on the team. I'm not comparing Stephenson to Pierce in terms of talent, but Pierce was more than a spot-up shooter and could create his own shot or dish it to others. Of course I'd much rather the backcourt be Smart and Stephenson, as I believe their skill sets match up better.

The biggest issue with either scenario is scoring. Stephenson's career high, I know it's a small sample size, is just 13 ppg. With Rondo or Smart, that's putting a healthy amount of the scoring on the shoulders of whoever the SF, PF and C are. If the team has two 20 ppg scorers, no big deal. They're getting that from Jeff Green now, but they'll need to get much more out of Jared Sullinger or grab a scoring/shot blocking center which may prove difficult.

Are you at all concerned about how little this backcourt would score with Stephenson?

From: Matt Richissin

Not in the least.

Listen, there's an argument to be made that he could continue to grow. That he's only 24, and clearly something happened in Indiana where he started to 'get it.' But I don't want to expand too far upon that, because I don't want to take away from my real point.

His scoring, to me, is a perception issue. It's an issue if you're counting on him to come in, and be 'THE GUY' and not just an above average starting guard, or an exceptionally talented sixth man (which I think is probably his best use). He's not putting you over the hump. But guess what? He's not compensated that way. His nine million dollar annual salary makes him the 67th highest paid player in the league. That's about right.

Plus, I don't think we're in a place to worry too much about where we're getting our scoring. I think the line of thinking should be in the very broad asset collecting way of thinking, and that's 'Are we better with this guy?'

So, final thoughts here - Would we be better off with Lance Stephenson?

From: Eric Blaisdell

Depending on what it would take to get him, yes the team would be better off. Guys that can do what Stephenson does on the court don't come around every day. And you're right about his contract, though I'd be a little concerned that he could walk just as this team hits its stride in a couple years. It'll be interesting to see how this all unfolds and I hope Boston's name is brought up when rumors about potential Stephenson suitors pop up.