A whirlwind Sunday that has seen the Lakers add LeBron James and re-sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in free agency just got even more wild. Per ESPN’s Chris Haynes, the Lakers will add another wing and former Pacer, Lance Stephenson.
Sources: It’s a one-year, $4.5 million deal. https://t.co/DUcYC4EDNo
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 2, 2018
Stephenson’s deal fits into the “Room” mid-level exception, a salary cap exception for teams who at any time were below the salary cap during the off-season. I thought the Lakers might try to use this specific exception on Brook Lopez, but the team moved to get another wing by inking Stephenson.
Lance’s fit is an interesting one, to say the least.
On the positive side, Stephenson offers good size, can switch defensively, offers some good playmaking and shot creation skill, and can be a real threat as a transition player both in the middle of the floor and as a finisher. He’s also competitive as hell and offers a confidence in himself that can be a real positive if channeled correctly. Add these things together and Stephenson can be a nice secondary shot creator and offensive initiator who offers some defensive toughness and transition pop.
On the other side, though, Stephenson has bounced around the league the way he has for a reason. That aforementioned confidence has not always been channeled well and there’s been too many times where he’s “colored outside the lines” as I like to call it. He can force too many shots, not provide the type of steady defensive attentiveness you want from a player who has been relied on in closing situations, and, overall, simply hasn’t proven to be incredibly reliable in any setting that did not involve playing for the Pacers.
Additionally, more of a point-forward type, Stephenson doesn’t space the floor and has operated best as someone who handles the ball. He shot 28.9% on 3’s last season in Indy, and is only a 30.3% shooter from deep for his career. This type of player is a tricky fit playing next to LeBron in general and for a team that desperately needs shooting, I’m interested in seeing exactly what types of lineups he’s slotted in and what his role is in them.
Beyond all this, Stephenson is an interesting add simply from the standpoint that he’s had plenty of run-ins with LeBron over the course of their careers. These two have had countless battles in the eastern conference, not only when LeBron was with the Heat but as recently as this past season when the Pacers and Cavs faced off in the 2nd round of the playoffs. LeBron has typically treated Lance as more of a nuisance who can be laughed off, but it’s clear that Lance has treated LeBron as a rival whose skin he was constantly trying to get under.
And now they’ll be teammates!
The Lakers off-season has gone from zero to warp speed in the span of hours. And I’d bet they’re not done yet.