The Case For Lance Stephenson


It seems as though a trade has been on the minds of Nuggets Nation for some time given the repetitiveness of its’ roster.  This seems to be even more so the case now given the slow start to the season.  Enter: Lance Stephenson.  Stephenson is no doubt a polarizing player.  On one hand, you have a guy who led the league in triple doubles a season ago.  On the other, you have a guy whose antics often overshadow his actual play.  The question then becomes ‘Is Lance Stephenson worth the gamble?’  For the Nuggets, that answer should absolutely be yes.

Let’s look at what the Nuggets would have to give up in exchange for what Lance would add.  Side note: This is the point where we spend hours playing on the ESPN Trade Machine because pretending to be a GM is really fun.

The first option the Nuggets could explore is a simple swap of Wilson Chandler for Stephenson.  The salaries are comparable as is the talent to an extent (if I’m not mistaken, Stephenson would actually be cheaper considering his 3rd year is non-guarunteed).   While Chandler has outplayed Stephenson this season, there is no denying that Stephenson has a higher ceiling, which is something the Nuggets should covet considering they aren’t competitive this year anyway.  Also, you would have to consider that Chandler’s value may be at its’ highest point at the moment.  This time last season, it would have been difficult to see Chandler as a worthy counterpart to Stephenson given Chandler’s injuries and Stephenson’s breakout season.  It’s possible this could end up being a steal for Denver, and it’s something they should consider assuming Charlotte would be interested.

A straight-up swap of Arron Afflalo for Stephenson would also be a theoretical possibility.  This deal could make sense for much the same reason as the Chandler deal.  While Afflalo is definitely the better player right now, Stephenson has a higher ceiling.  Throw in the fact that Afflalo could end up walking at the end of the season regardless, and this deal makes more and more sense.  Denver also has draft picks that could sweeten the pot if necessary.

The third scenario would be something much more elaborate and therefore much more fun.  The Nuggets could explore a multi-team deal.  Or, they could let me get creative with the trade machine and do what I say.  The following is, of course, a stretch and completely hypothetical.  In a four team deal, Denver sends Afflalo and a 1st round pick to Charlotte, Mozgov to Cleveland, and McGee to Indianapolis, getting Lance Stephenson, Roy Hibbert, and Joe Harris in return.  Charlotte sends Lance to Denver and Gary Neal to Cleveland in exchange for Afflalo and Denver’s 1st rounder.  Cleveland sends Harris to Denver, and Dion Waiters, Matthew Dellavedova, and their 1st round pick to Indianapolis in exchange for Mozgov and Neal.  Indianapolis sends Hibbert to Denver in exchange for McGee, Waiters, Dellavedova, and Cleveland’s 1st round pick..  And since that is a headache to read, here is where each player involved ultimately lands…

Denver: Lance Stephenson, Roy Hibbert, Joe Harris.

Charlotte: Arron Afflalo, Denver 1st Rd pick.

Cleveland: Timofey Mozgov, Gary Neal.

Indianapolis: JaVale McGee, Dion Waiters, Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland 1st Rd pick.

Now, I don’t know that the included teams would be interested in the least.  My point is simply that the Nuggets have flexibility and they have enough coveted assets to make some sort of splash, and given that they have such flexibility and a losing record to show for it, it makes sense to take some gambles and be aggressive.  There are plenty of reasons not to begin with Lance Stephenson, but there are also plenty of reasons to begin with Lance Stephenson.