Lance Stephenson has reportedly come to terms with Charlotte in what might be the best free agent pick up of the summer after LeBron James.
Lance Stephenson will sign a 3-year, $27 million deal with Charlotte, I can confirm. Third year team option. @rick_bonnell first.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 16, 2014
That is simply fantastic for Charlotte.
Stephenson's production suggests a star in the making, and he's still only twenty-three years old; he won't even have reached his prime by the time the Hornets have the opportunity to pick up his option or not, and at nine million per season, it's an almost unbelievable bargain if he sustains a similar level of play.
While the Pistons were never rumored to be in the market for Stephenson, it's easy to understand why a small contingent of fans coveted him. Since Grant Hill, the Pistons haven't had a true slasher that made his living getting into the paint (sorry, Rodney Stuckey). Stephenson isn't Hill to be sure, but he excels at getting to and finishing at the rim better than any Pistons since Hill. He's a good enough three-point shooter that his shot has to be respected, and while he's definitely not a pass-first player, he's improved his assist rate while decreasing his turnover rate, all while playing an increasing role in Indiana's offense.
I'm not a fan of the term "shot creator," but Stephenson is that. Via stats.nba.com, Stephenson scored over fifty-three percent of his points in the paint last season, and sixty-seven percent of his made two-point field goals were unassisted. For some context, Jodie Meeks logged thirty-five and twenty-six percent respectively, and Rodney Stuckey put up forty-five percent and sixty percent.
There are obvious concerns about his attitude and whether or not his play will continue to improve with a new big contract.
Those concerns are legitimate, but this contract mitigates the risk. At only nine million per year, even if his production decreases a little bit, it's still a bargain. And when Lance is only twenty-five years old, Charlotte will have a team option for a third year, giving Stephenson every incentive to play well to earn that third year, and more importantly, the big contract that could come afterwards.
Should Stan Van Gundy and team have pursued Lance? I don't know. The attitude concerns are real, and Van Gundy has talked extensively about culture. But, for the production and the price, there's a case to be made that waiting for bargains like this would have been a good strategy.