Whether or not Lance Stephenson can recapture the level of play that made him an All-Star two years ago, the Grizzlies have given themselves leverage for the future with a reported NBA trade deadline deal.
Memphis acquired the struggling forward from the Clippers for Jeff Green, with Los Angeles also kicking in a lottery-protected pick in the 2019 draft.
That selection comes on the heels of the Grizzlies getting four second-pick picks in the three-team deal that gave them P.J. Hairston and Chris Andersen, while sending Courtney Lee to the Hornets and Brian Roberts to the Heat.
Green is set to become an unrestricted free agent, while Stephenson has a team option for 2016-17 at $9.4 million.
An All-Star with the Pacers in 2013-14 when he averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, Stephenson hasn’t been able to find that same level of production outside of Indiana.
He managed 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds with the Hornets in 61 games last season before being dealt in June to the Clippers for Matt Barnes — who is now his teammates in Memphis — and Spencer Hawes. That came less than a full year after he signed a three-year, $27.5 million deal with Charlotte.
Stephenson’s 4.7 points and 2.5 rebounds a game for Los Angeles were his worst of the past four years, and included. But he did shoot 40.4 percent from 3-pointers for the Clippers (19 of 47), an uptick from 2014-15 in Charlotte when that percentage sat at 17.1.
That number will be key given what the Grizzlies gave up in Green and Lee.
Green was fourth on the team with 42 made 3-pointers, while Lee was third (51). Since Thanksgiving, Lee was hitting 47 percent from beyond the arc — fifth best in the league in that stretch — and Green was hitting at a 40.5 percent clip in the last eight games before the break.
With Marc Gasol out indefinitely with a broken right foot and the Grizzlies sitting at fifth in the Western Conference — 17 1/2 games back of the Warriors — they’re taking a gamble on Stephenson. But regardless of whether Memphis picks it up, they’ve at the least acquired an asset for an expiring deal.