Indiana previously offered Stephenson a 5-year contract for $44 million, which he did not sign. Dallas and Charlotte, the two teams in the hunt for him with Indiana, would have to make bigger offers to entice him over sticking around in Indianapolis.
The Hornets missed out on their top target, Gordon Hayward, with Utah matching their max contract offer in his restricted free agency, but could still be looking to upgrade their roster at the wing. Lance Stephenson is the best available option with great talent from the perimeter, though a divisive talent at that.
With Charlotte just having agreed to sign Marvin Williams to a two-year $14 million contract, their cap space is a good bit smaller. Previously it was about $20 million, but is now at a little below $12 million with the Haywood trade complete and including the Williams deal. Should the Hornets decline Scotty Hopson's $1.5 million team option, that'll give them more cap space.
But it's no certainty the Hornets are interested in Stephenson to such a serious degree, as Rick Bonnell says.
I tweeted this a while back and it still holds true: Hornets aren't showing signs they want Stephenson.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) July 12, 2014
So there's some disagreement on whether the Hornets are intent on adding Stephenson. Who knows.
Stephenson's fit is an intriguing one. He's an upgrade over Gerald Henderson with a much bigger upside to improve. Stephenson, as he currently plays, is about as efficient as Henderson, but also adds more as a passer and has a jump shot that's increased greatly each year he's been in the league. It's not an immediate perfect fit next to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as he's no more a sharpshooter than Henderson is right now. His other major problem teams have difficulty with is his maturity, which was a bit of a sideshow during the playoffs. And if you think P.J. Hairston's recent run-in at a basketball court was bad, Lance Stephenson's criminal history is exponentially heinous. That was years ago and he hasn't done anything significantly despicable since then. But his recent antics haven't done him any favors.
Off-court problems aside, the chance to wrap up a talent like his as young as he is who could become even better, could prove to be attractive enough to override how his skills overlap with other Hornets who look to drive to the hoop with the ball in their hands.
But risking a lot financially, hoping he's grown up and counting on him to improve further might prove to be enough to convince the Hornets to avoid giving him a big offer.
In other news, the Hornets have apparently reached out to former-Bobcat D.J. Augustin, who was displaced as the starting point guard by Kemba Walker. Augustin's years since the Bobcats let him go in free agency have been inconsistent. He was exposed in a major way as a backup point guard in Indiana, but bounced back last year on the Bulls. I doubt he returns to Charlotte, however.
The Hornets' trade with the Cavaliers centered around Brendan Haywood was officially completed Saturday, with Cleveland sending back Scotty Hopson and cash considerations for Haywood and second-round pick Dwight Powell.
The effect of the trade was still the same as originally proposed with Alonzo Gee. Hopson has two years on his contract remaining, but the Hornets have the option to decline to retain him. This keeps intact the same intention the Hornets had when the deal was reported: a salary dump.