The Charlotte Hornets did their best to obtain Gordon Hayward on a 4-year, $63 million dollar contract, but Utah matched.
All the top players are gone and therefore the top suitors for Stephenson, besides Indiana, are also gone.
Charlotte has addressed their needs at power forward in the midst of Josh McRoberts leaving by getting Marvin Williams and drafting Noah Vonleh. Charlotte has also obtained a back up point guard in Brian Roberts. They have patiently waited for all the other teams to make their moves and waited with their $10-11 million dollars in cap space.
Charlotte has masterfully waited this long to make a move. So what is up?
Either one of two things is true regarding Lance Stephenson and the Charlotte Hornets: either (1) Charlotte is currently negotiating a deal under tight secrecy or (2) they have no interest whatsoever in “Born Ready.”
There are conflicting reports. Sean Deveney of The Sporting News says Charlotte is “aggressively” looking to upgrade its roster. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer counters by saying that the Hornets are not interested several times on his Twitter.
So if we don’t know what’s going on, there are several questions to ask about the future of this team…
1. Is Gerald Henderson the long-term answer at shooting guard?
I hope not! Gerald is a nice player and a team leader, but he is not a starter on a playoff contender. Henderson has maxed out as an average 2 guard in this league. He was abused by a washed up Dwayne Wade in the playoff series. Henderson would be a great 6th man. But he is too inconsistent at mid range and a poor 3 point shooter to count on. Charlotte needs range around Big Al and they need a second ball handler after Walker. Teams can simply double Big Al, forcing him to kick it out to Kemba who is really the only guy able to create a quality look. Too many times last season, this was Charlotte’s crunch time offense.
2. If Henderson is not the future at shooting guard is PJ Hairston?
Trust me, I like Hairston’s upside. He is a few years away from getting there however. His range is unlimited. He has tremendous physical tools like Lance to be a great defender. I think Clifford can coach him up. But Charlotte’s window to contend is now, not 3 years away. Big Al will be 30 soon, Charlotte needs guys like MKG, Zeller, and Hairston to mature quickly.
3. What will Rich Cho do with the rest of the cap space if he’s not going after Stephenson?
This is the most baffling issue to me. If Charlotte isn’t going to spend the 11 mil on Stephenson, who will they spend it on? You have to spend a required amount to AVOID a penalty. Why not retain McRoberts if Lance Stephenson wasn’t in the future? They knew Utah would match, so what gives? Charlotte is already at least 2 deep at every position. Are they going to fill the bench with 1 year deals? I hope they are in negotiations with Lance. Perhaps the issue is not how much, but how long. They could possibly land Lance on a 2-year $24 million deal. But why not go for 4 years, he’s 23 and will only get better long term?
4. What is Charlotte’s ceiling?
Without Stephenson, I’m not sure next year’s team is better than lasts. I think that McRoberts worked in Charlotte, but that is only because they desperately need more ball handling and creating ability. I think he is vastly overrated, but good luck in Miami without the King. Charlotte won a ton of close games last year and were hot at the end of the year. The East, though still weak, is much better overall than last year. Chicago, Washington, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Toronto have all significantly improved. Getting Lance is a rare chance to make the team better while damaging a potential rival in Indiana. Miami is weaker, but aside from that, everyone else got better. Without an upgrade in Lance, this team may not go forward, it may go back. It largely depends on the development of its young talent.
Overall, I’m not saying Lance Stephenson is a franchise changer, but he is this — a rare talent that is unrestricted at 23 years old. He is a two-way player. He is great at catch and shoot. He can create for himself or teammates. Defensively, he and MKG would be amazing together.
I know he has “issues” and can be a drama queen, but I think it is hypocritical for Carolina fans (Hornets or Panthers) to say that. The most beloved Panther of all time is Steve Smith. No one talked more or was more of an idiot than Steve Smith. THAT’S WHY WE LOVED HIM. Smitty punched out his own teammate for crying out loud! Lance is the Hornets version of Smith. He isn’t afraid of the best. He has playoff experience. It’s a steal of deal, so please Rich Cho and MJ–GO GET HIM!