A Lance Stephenson-For-Kobe Bryant Trade Scenario
Lance Stephenson cannot be traded until December 15, at which point the 4-14 Hornets are expected to try to shift him for a more effective wing scoring option. They're desperate.
After shooting at a nearly 50% clip last season in Indiana, the 24-year-old guard signed a two-year deal this offseason (with a third year team option) for $9 million per. His current shooting percentage is .367 -- the lowest it's been since he became a starter in 2012. He's also shooting .182 from behind the arc (well below his career average of .315) and averaging just 9.6 PPG, which is less than Corey freakin' Brewer -- who's also averaging eight minutes less per game, as well.
Let's face it: Lance's marriage with Charlotte is not working out. Jordan's gotta take over and make a move before that eighth-seed fades away like he used to.
Fuck it, trade him for Kobe.
WHY THE LAKERS SHOULD DO IT: The Lakers get a young, healthy scorer who rebounds and plays defense, at $16 million less than the guy they're sending out (who's 12 years older). Also, because the Hornets are so epically disappointing right now, it's assumed they'll be willing to trade some of their young talent and/or any number of their six untouched first-round draft picks through 2020. Those could be lottery picks if the franchise's history is any indication. Los Angeles also sheds the risk of losing Kobe to a longterm injury while he's still taking up over 40% of their payroll.
WHY THE HORNETS SHOULD DO IT: Charlotte gets a veteran scorer who currently leads the NBA in PPG (25.8), which is exactly what this team needs right now. They currently rank 26th in the league in scoring (93), which Real GM calculates would increase by 13.4 PPG in one plausible Kobe-for-Lance trade scenario. Also, Al Jefferson can opt out at the end of this season, which is vastly more likely to happen if this team continues to look hopeless. Adding Kobe would give him an incentive to stick around at least until 2016, when the Hornets would have both their massive contracts coming off the books.
HOW DOES KOBE BRYANT BENEFIT: Kobe gets to return to the team that drafted him in 1996 (how sweet?), Eastern Conference competition (how easy!), a playoff run before he retires (go on...), a chance to work with Jordan (ahhhh!) -- and he can still go after all those scoring records he's got his eye on (he'd still be the go-to scorer on Charlotte). Also, way better BBQ.
HOW DOES LANCE STEPHENSON BENEFIT: Stephenson gets to do as much crazy Skip To My Lou-shit as he wants on a team that isn't playing for anything meaningful this season. He'd be best player on the Lakers at 24-years-old, amidst a rebuild that could put him squarely in the middle of a dynasty at some point down the road. Also, way better tacos.
WHY IT COULD HAPPEN: The whole deal hinges on just how serious Michael Jordan's panic level is right now. After making the playoffs last season, expectations for the Hornets were high coming into 2014-15, and they've fallen short of them almost immediately. It's got to be embarrassing for Jordan, whose post-playing career has been defined by his inability to manage a basketball franchise. If he's willing to part with draft picks and young players to dramatically improve his squad in the short term -- and put his team back in the playoff race -- this trade does that. (It'd also be, like, the coolest trade in NBA history.)
The Lakers, on the other hand, could make out like bandits looting a desperate owner's draft chips. That's the allure of any deal from Los Angeles' perspective: They get a ton of quality rebuilding pieces. Charlotte has those -- they just don't have a scorer. L.A. has one of those -- they just don't have enough young talent.
Also, any deal would still allow the Lakers a massive amount of cap space in summer 2016.
WHY IT WOULDN'T HAPPEN: Any deal that involves two teams already over the cap and a player with two years and $50 million left on his contract is tricky, if not impossible. For starters, the Hornets would need to send multiple players in any exchange, which would drastically alter their rotation and depth. More importantly, however, the Lakers would need to be willing to take on four, five, or even six players -- and they'd need to have room on their roster (or inactive list) to accommodate those players to begin with.
Then there's the issue with cap space and flexibility in the coming offseasons. Assuming Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker are off the table, there are only three expiring contracts Charlotte could include in a deal -- and they're worth a combined $5 million. The Lakers probably don't want to trade their marquee star for role players they'll have to employ past the end of this year -- they'd want cap space heading into the 2015 free agency period and/or a young star in return. In a best case trade scenario for L.A., they only get a couple million coming off the books at the end of this year (basically Gary Neal's contract).
Also, Stephenson and Kobe would have to waive their no-trade clauses.
LOS ANGELES RECEIVES:
- Charlotte's 2015 and 2017 first-round picks
- G Lance Stephenson / 2yrs / $18 million / (third-year team option)
- G Gerald Henderson / 2yrs / $12 million
- G Gary Neal / 1yr / $3 million
- F Noah Vonleh / 4yrs / $11 million / (fifth-year team option)
- G Kobe Bryant / 2yrs / $49 million
- C Robert Sacre / 2yrs / $1.8 million
Direct any critiques, tweaks, compliments, anger, or general thoughts here: @_jakeodonnell.
Photos via Getty
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