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Charlotte Hornets Sign Lance Stephenson

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The Hornets locked up the tantalizing talent for a three-year, $27 million contract this morning.

Charlotte Hornets Sign Lance Stephenson

The Charlotte Hornets picked up one of the best remaining free agents on the market this morning when they added Indiana Pacers free agent Lance Stephenson to a three-year, $27 million deal. Two of the years are guaranteed with a team option thrown in for year three. The Observer's Rick Bonnell was the first to report the signing. 

After the Hornets lost out on restricted free agent Gordon Hayward (whose offer sheet was matched by the Utah Jazz) and Josh McRoberts signed with the Miami Heat, the Hornets needed to look elsewhere to bring on more talent. They have shrewdly done so, and Stephenson is the latest example. $9 million a year for just three years seems like a bargain for someone like Stephenson who is coming off his best season as a pro.

Last year, Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists in over 35 minutes of action per game. Stephenson led the league in triple-doubles last season with five. He was one of the best defenders of the league last year, posting the sixth-most defensive Win Shares according to Basketball Reference. He also showed a versatile offensive game and an ability to easily get into the lane. Stephenson is also just 23 and not even in his prime.

But despite all of the things he has going for him, Stephenson has plenty of baggage. He's had legal issues since his high school days that have continued into the pros. He has had behavioral problems on the court (14 technical fouls last season) and off of it. Stephenson has plenty of upside, but if his behavior gets in the way, it might negatively impact himself and the roster.

All parties, Stephenson, owner Michael Jordan and GM Rich Cho, are making a calculated gamble, though. Stephenson is leaving a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals in consecutive seasons and was atop the Eastern Conference in the regular season for a Charlotte team that was the seven seed and finished with a 43-39 record. The contract is short enough that there isn't that much risk. Charlotte has plenty of high character guys to surround Stephenson with, and he fills a need for a more dynamic perimeter scorer, and fits on their roster quite well.

When you look, top to bottom, at the roster Cho that has assembled, the Hornets are in a good position to contend in the Eastern Conference. A starting lineup of Kemba Walker, Stephenson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson is very solid. Throw in depth with players like Marvin Williams, Gerald Henderson, Jeffrey Taylor and rookies P.J. Hairston and Noah Vonleh, and the Hornets are an athletic, formidable team. There is also some flexibility for the 2015 free agent class, using salary info from Basketball Insiders. It's not much, but still enough to continue to add pieces. 

There are a bunch of variables and what-ifs for this team, but they are definitely trending upward. The Southeast Division is getting much more interesting and competitive, and the Hornets can really make some noise here next year.

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