The Los Angeles Clippers have reportedly made Lance Stephenson available following the team’s trade deal that sent Josh Smith back to the Houston Rockets.
There is talk around the league that Stephenson will be the next player to exit Los Angeles after the Clippers traded away Smith to the Rockets in exchange for the draft rights to Maarty Leunen, who currently plays for Scandone Avellino of the Italian Serie A.
According to Clippers president of basketball of operations and head coach Doc Rivers, Smith did not work out well in his rotation, so the team decided to trade him away.
“Obviously, I wanted Josh to work out, it just didn’t for us,” Rivers said, reports the LA Daily News. “Like I said earlier, he was very good, a good teammate and all that, but it just doesn’t work and so we wanted to go in another direction.”
It could also be the case for Stephenson, who has been a shell of himself in LA.
Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reported that Stephenson was “potentially available” as the trade deadline draws near. Stephenson, who mades $9 million this season but has a team option for the next season, has only played 34 of the Clippers’ 42 games, with an average of 3.9 points while playing 15.8 minutes per game.
Stephenson has never fit in with Rivers’ rotation and now finds himself at the bottom of the bench behind defensive liabilities like Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce. Trading Stephenson could get the Clippers someone who could help the team defensively and give them the solid identity of title contender.
But with Stephenson’s value hitting an all-time low, it would be hard for the Clippers to find a taker for the 6-foot-5 small forward. According to Tom West of Clipperholics, dealing Stephenson alone would only bring “minimal return at best,” so the Clippers would probably need to include the likes of Crawford to get a decent package from other teams.
In one possible trade scenario from ESPN’s trade machine, the Clippers could send Stephenson to the Chicago Bulls for backup big man Taj Gibson. While there is no definite confirmation from both teams around interests for such a deal, this remains the more reasonable move the Clips should consider.
Gibson, who has been rumoured to be one of the Bulls’ expendable big men, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, would serve as a big addition in the Clippers frontcourt. Currently, LA only has DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin as their reliable bigs, so bringing in Gibson would give them a solid centre in the team’s second unit. On the other hand, Stephenson would be a decent backup at the small forward position behind Jimmy Butler, filling in the Bulls’ need for a quality wing.
However, there is a growing sense that the Clippers may just be looking to subtract rather than add before the trade deadline hits, as reported by Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report.
“The Clippers, I’m told, simply want to go with addition by subtraction,” Bucher said. “They would just like their chemistry to be better.”
The Clippers do not look like a team that would make an impact come playoff time, but simply removing pieces and not trading for a roster upgrade would not help them either in the postseason.