Lance Stephenson signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this year after revitalizing his career with the Indiana Pacers last season. It was a move that surprised quite a few. Stephenson was expected to re-sign with the Pacers by many, but chose the bright lights of L.A. and teaming up with LeBron James instead.
Throughout the first 13 games of the 2018-19 NBA season, Stephenson has had an up-and-down role with the Lakers. Some games he has been one of the stars coming off the bench and others he has been a non-factor.
Moving forward, Stephenson could be exactly what the Lakers need to get their rhythm and chemistry back on track.
Los Angeles has begun turning things around over the last week or two. They now sit with a 7-6 record and are looking like a playoff caliber team once again. Stephenson hasn’t had a huge role over the last six games, but the potential is there for him to regain some playing time and figure things out moving forward.
In the 13 games he has played coming off the bench for the Lakers, Stephenson has averaged 8.9 points per game to go along with 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists. Los Angeles was hoping for more from him and they can still get it.
How can Stephenson be the piece that steps up to take on a bigger role for the Lakers? Quite simply, he can get back to being the flashy energizer that he was with the Pacers last season.
Stephenson struggles when he tries to force the issue. The thing is, he doesn’t need to do that with this Lakers’ team. Playing alongside James should make things easier on Lance, not more difficult.
One of his main focuses this offseason was improving his 3-point shot, which has been obvious this season. He has connected on 42.9 percent from beyond the arc and has been attempting 2.7 threes per game. Stephenson isn’t going to be a deadly spot-up shooter, but he certainly can knock them down when he’s open.
Moving forward, Stephenson needs to focus on doing what made him great with the Pacers a few years back. Being a playmaker, getting to the rim, and firing up the fans without getting too worked up himself.
The Lakers are a team that needs a veteran player like Stephenson to bring it every time he steps on the court off the bench. In the second unit, there is no better scoring option than Lance when his head is on straight. Keeping himself under control is a must and if he is able to do that, he will get back to being “good Lance.”
That isn’t to say that Stephenson is going to be the piece that gets the Lakers back on track completely. His role is one that will simply stabilize the bench unit if he can get himself back on track. Luke Walton needs the version of Stephenson that comes in looking to lead and create for his teammates, not the version that tries to force highlight plays.
Defensively, Stephenson has always been the type of player who can get under opposing players’ skin. L.A. needs to get that back from him as well. Having a duo of Stephenson and Rajon Rondo on the bench could be extremely frustrating for backup guards from other teams.
At 28 years old, it’s time for Stephenson to decide what player he wants to be. He doesn’t have the luxury of having good games and awful games anymore. His playing time depends on him becoming a much more stable piece for the Lakers’ second unit.
If Stephenson is able to keep a calm head and score 10 points while dishing out five assists per game, the Lakers are going to take a big step forward.
There is no question that the fans in L.A. love watching Stephenson play. He has drawn a lot of excitement from the home crowd and has had a few games where he was a huge impact player, but he has to be that guy each and every night.
If that happens, the Lakers are going to be a much more dangerous team and their second unit will take the leap forward that the franchise desperately needs.