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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Clippers acquire Lance Stephenson from Hornets

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Hard-capped, draft pick-less, and desperate for a roster upgrade, the Los Angeles Clippers have acquired mercurial guard Lance Stephenson from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for forward Matt Barnes and center Spencer Hawes.

Trusted NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first broke the news of the talks early Monday afternoon via Twitter. Some three hours after his initial report, Wojnarowski then announced that the deal had been finalized.

After a breakout 2013-14 campaign for the Indiana Pacers where he posted averages of 13.8 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, and 4.6 assists per game, helping lead the team to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Stephenson signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Hornets last summer and proceeded to fall off a cliff like Wile E. Coyote.

In one of the worst year-to-year regressions in recent NBA history, Stephenson was an absolute dumpster fire for Charlotte in 2014-15 with averages of 8.2 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, and 3.9 assists per game on (shield your eyes, children) 38/17/63 percent shooting splits. The one-time triple-double machine was quickly relegated to the second unit by Hornets head coach Steve Clifford for his questionable decision-making and atrocious, long-2-heavy shot selection, being ultimately viewed as perhaps the worst free agent acquisition of the 2014 offseason.

The idea of “Born Ready” in the bright lights of Los Angeles poses an interesting proposition. Stephenson’s midrange-abundant, ball-dominant offensive style seems like a poor match alongside Chris Paul in a Clippers offense that ranked first in offensive efficiency during the 2014-15 regular season. A known killer of both floor spacing and team chemistry, the Cincinnati product comes with a great deal of baggage/maintenance. Still with limited trade assets, a hard cap holding the franchise in limbo, no 2015 draft picks, and DeAndre Jordan’s unrestricted free agency looming, it’s the type of move the Clippers had to pull the trigger on, especially given Stephenson’s undeniable two-way talent.

Barnes, the 35-year-old “three and D” specialist, was a valuable piece for the Clippers during the season as their only true small forward. But the UCLA product is aging fast, losing lateral quickness, and his 3-point shot abandoned him almost completely during the Clippers’ playoff run. Barnes, who has 1 year and $3.5 million remaining on his deal is only guaranteed $1 million of that money for next season. Wojnarowski reports that it is “unlikely” the Hornets keep Barnes.

Meanwhile, Hawes represents a massive free agent bust of his own. The 27-year-old signed a 4-year, $23 million deal over the offseason for the full midlevel exception, only to laugh all the way to the bank with putrid 2014-15 averages of 5.8 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game in just 17.5 minutes per game. Though the 7-footer still has value as a versatile big that can stretch the floor, he was banished to the DNP-CD realm of Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, as the team became as desperate to rid themselves of Hawes’ poisonous contract as the Hornets were to rid themselves of Stephenson’s.

While the Clippers might have pipe dreams of Stephenson as a primary ball-handler/creator whenever CP3 sits and while the Hornets might be looking forward to increasing their locker room supply of Barack Obama toilet paper, this deal just seems like a bizarro fit on both sides. Still, it’s one that, insanely enough, got done because of how desperate both teams were to purge and upgrade.

Though GM Doc deserves credit for trading a seemingly untradable asset in Hawes and acquiring the best player in the deal (technically) in return, this experiment could go horribly wrong just as easily as it could go right.

Yep, it’s that time of year again. Wild trade negotiations somehow come to fruition and nutty rumors actually materialize. The NBA sure blows sometimes.

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