Name: Lance Stephenson
Key Stats: (as a Clipper) 43 games, 15.8 minutes per game, 10.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per 36 minutes.
Years in the NBA: 6
2015-16 Salary: $9,000,000
Future Contract Status: Has a team option with the Memphis Grizzlies for $9,000,000 next season. If picked up, he will be an UFA in 2017. If declined, he will be an UFA this summer.
In a quick mental search of Clippers players that have caused divides within the fanbase, it's hard to remember anyone quite as controversial as Lance. It's an oddly fitting reaction to his bipolar play. I found myself simultaneously wanting Lance in the rotation and wanting him traded. I was relieved when he left, but am intrigued by bringing him back. There's just so much basketball talent there, unleashed in frustratingly inconsistent spurts.
Lance is athletic, strong, and talented. He uses those attributes to get to the rim and demonstrate fantastic finishing abilities, and he has the ability to make absolutely brilliant passes. Even in limited minutes, he can fill an And-1 mixtape with acrobatic moves. Lance also brings a lot of aggressiveness, forcing the issue on drives and providing consistent dribble-penetration. He's a spectacular rebounder for his size because of his strength, and when engaged he has a reputation as an elite defender. At his best, Lance is incredibly effective, getting to the rim regularly and finishing consistently.
What's most frustrating is that Lance seems to be mostly held back by himself. He's an average jumpshooter at best, but he limits his perimeter shots to maintain efficiency. The biggest issue comes from his attitude, and his attitude's effect on his effort. When Lance isn't getting the ball, he stops participating on both offense and defense. It's very easy for him to get out of the flow of the game, and once he's falls out it's very hard to get him engaged again. He turns demonstrably whiny at not getting the ball, and disengaged defensively. Furthermore, he stops moving off of the ball. One other issue is that he tends to not be a fan of making simple passes. Lance likes to dribble the ball into the ground, and his touches end in shots, assists, or turnovers, never a simple pass to move the ball. If you're on the internet, you've probably seen this exemplified in vines, showing clips of some really stubborn possessions with blinders on.
Future With the Clippers:
There was talk when Lance was traded that Doc Rivers would be open to his eventual return to the Clippers. While that door is still presumably open hypothetically, it's hard to see it materializing in real life. Memphis seems likely to exercise their team option to bring Lance back next season, and even if they don't, it's doubtful that the Clippers would be able to afford him this summer. In the future, who knows, but for now, we can keep watching Lance from afar--rooting for his development without having to rip our hair out when we see his warts show.
Best Moment as a Clipper:
Without a doubt, this dunk: