Within hours of posting my Draft preview yesterday, news broke that Lance Stephenson had been shipped to the Clippers for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes.
I really like the deal.
- Lance had to go.
Stephenson is a ball dominant guard with a high turnover rate who can’t shoot. That’s basically every single Hornet pain-point bundled together into one human being. Clifford’s system is dependent upon minimizing giveaways and Charlotte has led the league in fewest turnovers committed for the past two seasons. The team already has a ball dominant lead guard (Kemba Walker) who has his own shooting issues. Benching Lance for another season both wastes a roster spot and creates a distraction. He had to go.
- Waiving him was worse.
The team could’ve simply “Josh Smith’d” Lance and eaten the last year of his salary ($9m) for the season. But that’s one sixth of the team’s cap literally gone to waste. They also could’ve used the league’s Stretch Provision and paid out Stephenson’s salary over the next three seasons ($3m per) – which is a better option in some ways until you consider the next point.
- The $3m Backup Center.
Spencer Hawes is owed approximately $5.8m per season over the next three. Once the team either unloads Matt Barnes’s contract or buys him out ($1m cap hit), Hawes’s salary is all Charlotte will be on the hook for. As Kevin Pelton noted in his excellent trade grade piece for ESPN Insider, once factoring in the stretch provision penalty – the Hornets are essentially getting a very good backup center for less than $3m per season. This is tremendous value.
- The fit.
Nearly twenty five years of hoops geekdom has taught me a valuable lesson: Fit is just as important as talent. Every once in a while a Duncan or MJ or Lebron comes along who would dominate on any team in any era. That’s rare. How a franchise develops and uses the player is extraordinarily important for everyone else. Josh McRoberts was headed out of the league before Steve Clifford helped resurrect his career (and earn him another $25m). Is Draymond Green a max guy on the Timberwolves? Does Zach Randolph experience his wonderful second act if he doesn’t go to Memphis? The Hornets are desperate for three point shooting and playmaking. Hawes brings both. Seriously. Just watch some of these highlights:
- A Defensive Sieve.
Steve Clifford built a Top 10 NBA Defense in back to back years with Al Jefferson at center. Think about that. The odds that this foundation will be destroyed with Hawes playing 16-18 minutes a night are quite low. The system remains the same: prevent penetration, get back on defense and commit as few turnovers as possible.
- Bismack Biyombo: Superstar.
Everyone likes Biz. He works hard, is a super pleasant guy off the court and does a few very nice things on it. But some of the reactions after yesterday’s trade made it sound like we were talking about Bill Russell. Biyombo has become one of the top rim protector’s in the game. True. He also stinks at offense and his team struggles to score even when he’s on the bench. I’ve been saying for years that a good team can’t have both Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the same rotation. You have to pick one. And if this trade was made with the intention of letting Biz walk in free agency, then so be it. I want Biyombo to succeed first, succeed on the Hornets second. Put Biz in a situation like Dallas and he can start and never touch the ball outside of a dunk.
- How the trade affects the Draft.
Hawes is essentially a veteran version of Myles Turner or Frank Kaminsky. Expect Charlotte to pass on each of them and focus on finding wings or trading the pick entirely. There’s been some noise about a trade back to nab RJ Hunter and another asset. The team could also package Marvin Williams ($7m expiring contract) with one of Noah Vonleh or Cody Zeller plus the nine pick to grab an All-Star type veteran wing. Cho has been big on collecting assets versus consolidating them so I’d put the chances of this sort of trade at around 25%.
- They’re keeping Hawes.
From Rich Cho’s comments post-trade, it sounds like they’re thrilled to have him and getting Hawes was just as big a part of making this trade as was unloading Lance.
- How the trade affects Free Agency.
All will be revealed between June 30th and early July. Will Biz be extended his meaty ($5.4m) qualifying offer as the team’s third center? Will Gerald Henderson exercise his player option? Will the team turn their back on Jeff Taylor or give him one more shot? Until then, we won’t know for certain how much cap space Charlotte will have to play with. It certainly won’t be enough for a max-type offer.
- Cheer up.
Hawes is going to help on the court and in the lockerroom. The Lance distraction is a thing of the past. The Draft is quickly approaching and the team’s young trio of Cody, Vonleh and MKG are getting better every year. The books are relatively clean and the team owns all of its first round picks going forward. All is good.