Lance Stephenson is the Mavs’ best Plan B
By Bailey Rogers
First things first: I desperately want the Mavericks to get Chandler Parsons. I know it is a lot of money, but I earnestly believe he will be the Mavs’ second best player by the end of the season. However, there remains a good chance that the Rockets will match Dallas’s offer sheet, dashing my hopes and dreams. If that happens, the Mavs will need to move quickly to lock up whomever is their Plan B.
In my opinion, the best option other than Parsons is none other than Lance Stephenson. And yes, I am fully aware this is unlikely to be a very popular opinion.
The fact of the matter is Lance Stephenson is the most talented unrestricted free agent left unsigned. True, he may not seem to be an ideal fit since he is better suited to play shooting guard than small forward. However, he is too talented to pass up on. Let me explain why, before I talk briefly about the various ways the Mavs could get him.
Signing Lance Stephenson brings the Mavericks a lot of flexibility, which is good for a creative coach like Rick Carlisle. Monta Ellis can play both guard positions, and Lance can play any position from the 1 to the 3. Yes, at 6-5 and 230 lbs, Lance is undersized for a SF, which is less than ideal next to Monta, who is undersized for a SG. But what if Monta is your starting PG and Lance is your starting SG? Looks a lot better, right?
I’m not sure who the Mavs would have at SF, but there are a number of options, depending on how much you have to spend on Lance. But for a team that needs perimeter shooting, perimeter defense, and rebounding, how can you pass up on Stephenson if you have a good shot at him? He does all those things and more, regardless of whether you play him at the 2 or the 3.
How about a few statistics really quick? Last year, in his 4th NBA season, Lance averaged the following: 13.8 points per game, 4.6 assists per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, 35.2% on 3-point shots, and a 56.4% true shooting percentage. And he is probably a better one-on-one defender than anyone on the Mavs’ roster last season, other than maybe the aging Shawn Marion.
Sure, he might be crazy, but they can’t all be milk-drinkers. As fans, we have to trust that Carlisle can sort Stephenson out. The guy is 23 years old, still young and moldable by the right coach and locker room. If the Mavs play their cards right, Stephenson could be the franchise player when Dirk retires.
So assuming that you’re on board now, how can the Mavs get him to Dallas?
First of all, obviously they could just sign him outright. Lance reportedly turned down a 5-year, $44 million offer from the Pacers. So it is probably safe to assume it will cost more than that to get him, unless he just really doesn’t want to be in Indiana anymore. If this is the case, the Mavs probably have the cap space to sign Lance to a long-term near-max deal, but are also probably very reluctant to do so.
Another option might be offering Lance a shorter-term deal for a little bit more than per-year than what Indiana is offering. This might be appealing to both sides. Lance could make, let’s say, $12 or $13 million a year for a couple of years and then hit the market again when he is 25. Lance would still take up a big chunk of the Mavs’ cap space, but they don’t have to feel tied down to a volatile player they clearly aren’t sold on yet.
But let’s say that the Mavs do get Parsons. Is there any way that they could still get Lance? Obviously Parsons takes up most of Dallas’s cap space, but if Lance could be amenable to a smaller deal than what Indiana is offering him, the Mavs could maybe clear up enough cap space by trading Raymond Felton and Brandan Wright. This would clear up just under $9 million in cap space, if Lance can be had for that amount. Another, crazier option might be a sign-and-trade for Monta Ellis.
If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. For the Mavs, Lance works best as a SG, and (if he can be had for close to the same salary) he basically does everything Monta does but also brings size, defense, rebounding, and better perimeter shooting.
As for Indiana, they lose Lance, but get a quality offensive piece in return. Everyone knows that Indiana’s biggest flaw is offense, and Monta could really bring a shot in the arm to the Pacers’ offense while also using his playmaking abilities to make Paul George and Roy Hibbert better.
Obviously this would be the best of both worlds. But it’s probably a pie in the sky idea, one that would require the Rockets choosing not to match, the Mavs’ front office getting out of their comfort zone enough to actually think of and execute this plan for a player they seem skeptical of, and finally for Indiana to play ball. Probably not going to happen, so no one get too excited.