If the Los Angeles Clippers learned anything in their latest failed attempt to reach the NBA’s mountaintop, it’s that their lineup is still a little light.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan make for a tremendous trio if ever there was one, but the depth that so many superior teams boast is simply not there for Doc Rivers and his crew. That proved painfully true in their second-round series against the Houston Rockets, who downed the Clippers with their battered and bruised roster despite trailing 3-1 in the series.
All of which is why they’ve decided to take quite the calculated risk.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Clippers and Charlotte Hornets have agreed in principle to a trade that will bring mercurial guard Lance Stephenson to Los Angeles and send veteran small forward Matt Barnes and center Spencer Hawes to Charlotte. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been announced.
Stephenson was a colossal disaster in his first season in Charlotte, but the combination of his playmaking abilities, scoring and defensive prowess are clearly enticing to the Clippers’ commander in chief.
Rivers, who holds the title of head coach and president of basketball operations, did this deal because he knows the Clippers need an infusion of versatile young talent.
There is a safety net of sorts when it comes to the proposition of partnering with Stephenson, who averaged 8.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 25.8 minutes per game last season after having a banner year with the Indiana Pacers in 2013-14 (13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists per game).
He has only one guaranteed year left on his deal with the Hornets that’s worth $9 million, with a team option for the following season worth $9.4 million. That means Rivers could take a flyer on Stephenson with the hopes of him rectifying his career under the Clippers’ care, knowing all the while that the time commitment is on the short end.
The 35-year-old Barnes has one more year left on his deal worth $3.5 million, while Hawes — who was seen as a key free agent signing last summer — has three seasons and approximately $17.3 million remaining on his deal. Yahoo! Sports first reported the trade talks, and ESPN.com first reported the agreement.