The Los Angeles Lakers have been aggressive in free agency so far this summer; however, they’ve come up empty handed over and over again. There is one “marquee” free agent left on the board. His name in Lance Stephenson.
The Lakers have shown interest in Stephenson, but have been busier trying to land the likes of Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and apparently Dirk Nowitzki. What the Lakers have to show for free agency right now is contract promises to Jordan Hill (2 years/$18M), the immortal Swaggy P, aka Nick Young (4 years/$21.5M), a trade for Jeremy Lin and a first round pick from the Houston Rockets. It’s a sad state of affairs here in Los Angeles.
However, the Lakers can make a minor splash and improve there chances of making the playoffs in the 2014-15 season by trying to sign Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson. While we know that Stephenson is a bit of a misfit, he is also a massively talented 23-year old who led the NBA with five triple doubles last season, NBA guards in rebounds with 7.2 a game, and is one of the best perimeter defenders in the association.
Stephenson famously, or infamously, turned down Indiana’s 5-year, $44M deal on July 1st and is one of the last big name free agents left standing. The question remains: Will the Lakers try to sign Lance Stephenson?
The more appropriate question is CAN they sign Lance Stephenson?
Stephenson has been courted by plenty of teams. The Dallas Mavericks were close to offering him a contract before the Houston Rockets decided to not match Chandler Parsons‘ offer sheet. Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets have been rumored to have interest for some time now; however, they’ve never extended an offer. The Hawks may be interested. Right now it looks like Larry Bird, the President of the Indiana Pacers, is playing a game of chicken with Stephenson and his representatives. And you know what? He’s winning.
Back to our question: Can the Lakers sign Lance Stephenson?
The simple answer is yes. By promising contracts to Jordan Hill and Nick Young, but not actually signing the deals and making them binding, the Lakers still have about $6.8M in cap space to work with after the Jeremy Lin trade. The Lakers can always go over the luxury tax to re-sign their own players, assuming they don’t renounce their rights, which the Lakers won’t do. Meanwhile, the Lakers can open up another $6M this season by using the stretch provision on Steve Nash. The stretch provision essentially “stretches” Nash’s contract out over three years, meaning he would receive $3.1M over the next three years, instead of $9M+ this season.
The Lakers do not want to use the stretch provision on Steve Nash. Their dream scenario, right now, is to trade Nash to another team who wants an expiring contract in return for picks. Is that likely to happen? Not at this point in the offseason. If the Lakers are truly interested in bringing in a player like Lance Stephenson then they’re likely going to have to use the stretch provision on Nash in order to clear enough cap space to sign Stephenson.
Let’s assume that the Lakers use the stretch provision on Nash. That means that the Lakers will have about $12M in cap space, before signing Hill and Young. Would Stephenson accept a 2-year deal with the Lakers for $22-24M? Would the Lakers be willing to go over the salary cap and potentially go into the luxury tax for Lance Stephenson?
Is Lance Stephenson worth the headache? It’s going to be hard enough to convince Stephenson to take a shorter term deal in Los Angeles. It’s also going to require a lot of time and effort to make the necessary deals to create space for Stephenson. And then, once you get Stephenson in the door, is he worth $11-12M a season if he’s going to act like a petulant child 5-10% of the time. Is it worth it? Is it all worth it?
I can’t answer that question. All I know is that if the Lakers have any interest in salvaging their 2014-2015 season they must consider signing Lance Stephenson. If they’re not interested in competing next season and they’re simply looking to acquire assets for 2015 and 2016 then by all means they should continue doing what they’re doing.
Lance Stephenson comes at a cost. But so does losing. It’s your choice Mitch. Time to put your cards on the table.