With the Los Angeles Lakers entering the off-season with plenty of cap room, we’re examining potential free agents and their fit with the Lakers.
This week, we begin our look at with Indiana Pacers shooting guard, Lance Stephenson.
2013-14 Statistics: 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 0.7 steals.
Stephenson had a breakout year in 2013-14 and set career highs in points, rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage. His performance convinced voters to put him second behind Goran Dragic for Most Improved Player. During the season, he had four triple-doubles, tied with Bulls’ Joakim Noah for most, and showed he can impact a game in a variety of ways.
The Pacers relied on Stephenson heavily during the season. Stephenson was third on the team in scoring and second in minutes. Stephenson proved to be a valuable piece for a playoff team and has the potential to become an integral part on a championship contender.
One of Stephenson’s greatest strengths is his ability to handle the ball. He can create any shot he wants whether it be an open jumper or a drive to the rim.
An area Stephenson can still improve on is his ability to nail the three-point shot. He relies too much on his ability to create his own shot while only averaged a single three per game. He would rather try to get to rim or create some separation and pull up for a long two.
The biggest complication with Stephenson is that he is natural shooting guard. With Kobe Bryant expected to make his return, Stephenson would be coming off the bench or the Lakers would have to move Bryant over to the three position.
Stevenson definitely has all the tools to be an a key piece for the Lakers. However, his skill set requires him to have the ball often for him to be effective.
Stephenson is an excellent one-on-one defender. His length bothers opposing players and his quickness allows him to stay in front of his man. As a result, he is able to force tough, contested shots.
However, Stephenson struggles just his off-ball defense. He doesn’t respond well to screens and often finds himself out of position. This can be fixed with a better scheme in place as well as an improved communication and chemistry with his teammates on the defensive end.
With the Lakers, the addition of Stephenson could allow Bryant to matchup with the opposing team’s secondary wing option. Stephen has the ability to stay with the primary scoring threat. During the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, he did an outstanding job on LeBron James.
2013-14 Salary: $930,000
Stephenson definitely outplayed his contract and is expected to earn a multi-year contract worth at least $6-8 million per year.
The Pacers are is a dilemma themselves as they have committed their money towards Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and David West. They enter the off-season with a salary over $65 million and will likely try to find a cheaper option despite owning Stephenson’s Bird Rights.
Landing With Lakers Odds: 25 to 1
While Stephenson is talented, the Lakers simply do not need an immediate need for him. Adding him to the roster would cause roster complications between him and Bryant. The Lakers would be better served by targeting a player that doesn’t require the ball as much as Stephenson does.
Despite his talents, Stephenson had a player efficiency Rating of 14.97, just slightly below the league average of 15.00. Stephenson’s upside is huge given his ability to produce triple-doubles on any given night. However, if the Lakers want to keep their financial flexibility for 2015 and potentially 2016, they should look elsewhere.
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