Free agent forward Lance Stephenson has had a somewhat underwhelming stint with the Los Angeles Lakers last season.
He was signed by the franchise to a one-year deal in order to help mentor the young players and provide quality minutes off the bench. Stephenson was able to do both, but his individual production took a hit. Add to that the fact that he had to deal with injuries and inconsistent playing time.
Stephenson will obviously look to bounce back, and at 28 years old, he’s still relatively young. There are several teams who will be interested in bringing him in, especially since he is still regarded as a reliable 3-and-D guy.
Let’s look at some of the squads that could sign Stephenson this summer.
3. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors will are one win away from their first-ever NBA title, and should they successfully beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 on Thursday, one of the things that they will most likely improve on this summer is their bench.
Aside from Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka, no one from the Raptors’ role players has been able to provide significant contributions in the playoffs this season. Adding a guy like Lance Stephenson will definitely help them in a lot of ways. First of all, he made 37 percent of his 3-pointers last season. Having him and VanVleet come off the bench will definitely help take the pressure off the starters, especially if they can knock down the 3-ball consistently.
Moreover, Lance is still a capable defender. He can still stay in front of guys on a consistent basis. Stephenson is not that quick, but he is able to find ways to make it difficult for the opposing players to get past him. If the Raptors bring him in, they will have another capable wing defender other than Kawhi Leonard.
One concern that could make the Raptors second-guess the idea of signing Stephenson is his tendency to lose focus. There are times when Lance would just prefer trash-talking with opponents, trying to get under their skins and all those unnecessary stuff. However, the prospect of winning a championship should be enough to keep him motivated.
Of course, this is assuming that they’re able to keep Kawhi Leonard.
2. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks are pretty optimistic about next season as they formally begin their post-Dirk Nowitzki era. The tandem of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis should be enough to excite the team and its fans, but who will their supporting cast be?
Of course, the ball will often be in the hands of Doncic and Porzingis, meaning that the Mavs will have to surround them with spot-up shooters. Lance Stephenson can obviously do that, which means that he will be able to fit in well with this team.
Moreover, Stephenson can create his own shots, which is good considering the fact that they will need someone to provide scoring off the bench. He averaged close to eight points on 41 percent shooting last season. Imagine what he can do for the Mavs if he will be given consistent minutes on the floor.
Lastly, he can be the veteran presence in this young team, something that he’s already done when he was with the Lakers.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have seemingly given up on their young core. Despite their talent, it looks like the franchise is looking to win now, which means most of them might not be there next season.
Let us assume that the Lakers successfully acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans or even Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards. The Lakers will be looking to surround them and LeBron James with shooters. Stephenson can definitely fill that role, and he’s proven that to the four-time MVP last season.
In addition, Frank Vogel, Lance’s coach back in his first stint with the Indiana Pacers, is now coaching the Lakers. So if the team decides to hold onto him, he will have someone who knows how to use him based on his strengths.
He’s shown flashes of the great player that he once was, and if he can convince the Purple and Gold that he can do it on a consistent basis, there’s no need for him to leave Los Angeles.
What’s next for him?
Stephenson is already way beyond just being a meme.
His ear blowing days are behind him, and right now, he’s focused on winning.
That was his mindset when he decided to join the Lakers; because he thought that they were going to be a contender.
But given the fact that the season didn’t turn out the way he expected it to be, Lance will definitely look for another opportunity to prove that he can contribute on a winning team, or at least a franchise that’s on its way there.