Getting Lance Stephenson Is The First Step For The Clippers' Evolution
Doc Rivers certainly has his hands full over in Los Angeles.
After a depressing failure to down the Houston Rockets in what could've been a five-game series, Clippers GM Dave Wohl is already making moves for the team.
Assuming two crucial pieces stay (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin), it's safe to say the Clippers can't afford to have their level of talent decrease if they want to compete in the Western Conference.
Their first move? The "high-risk, high-reward" acquisition of spark-plug shooting guard Lance Stephenson.
Stephenson's performance this season didn't do him much justice as a player. He shot the worst percentage in the league (.171 percent) from behind the arc.
The year before, in his 2013-2014 campaign with the Pacers, we saw how well he could play in the right system.
The key words here are, "the right system." Stephenson is now under the wing of NBA Champion Doc Rivers, who's dealt with players with attitudes before.
But, Lance is a little different.
Regardless of his behavior, Lance's presence as a pesky defender and hustle player will fill the void Matt Barnes left, with some added scoring as well.
He knows how to score, and it'll be up to Doc to decide whether or not they need that in their starting lineup or off the bench.
This trade means a lot of things for the Clippers.
Now, when Chris Paul is out of the game, they'll have another ball-handler they can trust to bring the ball up the floor and make a play, taking some pressure off of Austin Rivers as a backup.
Stephenson is also a do-it-all type of player, and Doc Rivers agrees.
He's not a huge threat to drop 30 points. He would rather have his stat line be more balanced: 15 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, two steals and a block was a typical night for Lance in his last year on the Pacers.
Chris Paul and Blake have proven they can do it all as well, and if Lance doesn't demand the ball too much, he'll fill up the stat sheet, too. When you have two or three triple-double threats on your team, it's a scary thing.
The Clippers have always been a formidable team, and they've grown out of their "Lob City" phase now. They have yet to get to a Conference Finals series, and as CP3 gets older, his time for a title is running out.
CP3 can make his teammates better, but by having a guy like Lance, who's played in two Eastern Conference Finals series, he can rest assured knowing Lance could help lead the team should they make it far in the playoffs next season.
Trading away Barnes, a starter with some length, means they might want to find a longer wing player, ideally with some playoff experience as well.
Unless they plan on putting Lance, or an older, less explosive Hedo Türkoğlu at the small forward spot, it will be interesting to see what weapons the Clippers add this offseason.
The real question now is, where will they end up in the Western Conference?
Assuming Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are back, and the Thunder are healthy, they're going to be nothing short of formidable.
If the Warriors and Rockets hold on to their key players, they're also potential top four teams.
Alright, maybe it's a bit too early to make predictions. Besides, the Spurs, Pelicans, Mavericks and Blazers also could surprise anyone with their deep rosters.
This year's Western Conference race was already too close for comfort.
One thing is certain: The Clips are tired of spectacular regular seasons and sub-par post-seasons. Their roster has to be adjusted if they want to see some changes.
Lance is the first step in that process, and the Clippers set the tone for a hectic summer of trades and free agency.