When the Minnesota Timberwolves waived John Lucas III, it gave them an empty roster spot to use either in a trade or to absorb a 10-day player into the rotation should an injury occur. After Zach LaVine tore his ACL and ended his 2016-17 season, the Wolves immediately needed wing depth. For the next 10 days and possibly more, it looks like they’re going to fill that need with “veteran presence” Lance Stephenson.
Shams Charania of The Vertical is reporting Tom Thibodeau will sign the former Indiana Pacers wing to a 10-day deal. Depending on how he plays, that will open up the chance to sign Stephenson to a second 10-day deal and maybe even the rest of the regular season.
Lance Stephenson is signing a 10-day contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources tell The Vertical.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 7, 2017
There are two initial reactions to a move like this: 1) hope that he figures out how to contribute again and makes the most of this opportunity, which helps the Wolves tremendously, and 2) mother of god why?
To Stephenson’s credit, his ability to be disruptive defensively still exists. He can be a pest on the ball and he’s long and strong enough to work through pick-and-roll coverage to keep up with the ball handler. Those are important attributes the Wolves will need when he’s on the court. If you can get a half second more for Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns to react and load up against a drive to the hoop, that could be the difference between a bucket and a stop.
He’s also a playmaker. In his six games in New Orleans earlier this season and his one year in Charlotte a couple years ago, Lance was able to rack up assists and find teammates some good shots. The playmaking isn’t paramount with Towns and Rubio on the court, but it’s been lacking in the second unit. If he’s able to set Nemanja Bjelica up for a 3-pointer or hit Kris Dunn on a cut to the hoop or get a better shot for Shabazz Muhammad, we might see more production out of a pretty anemic bench.
However, that’s where the superlatives for Stephenson end. Those seem to be best-case scenario realities for this signing. He can’t really shoot. Yes, he had a solid contract year shooting from outside and even his split time with the Clippers and Grizzlies showed a consistent shooting stroke from 3-point range. He’s still a career 30.5% 3-point shooter and 34.5% from mid-range. He was also a poor finisher around the rim after he signed in Charlotte, but at least curbed that a bit over the last season.
This move is a Band-Aid on a wound that needs stitches. Maybe that bandage lasts for the next 2.5 months and the Wolves get a boost on the bench. I’m going to guess that he doesn’t find his way in Minnesota and they have to circle back at some point to try something new.
There are options in the D-League if and when that becomes the case for the Wolves. Vander Blue could be a fun experiment for the Wolves’ rotation. Kevin Murphy would be a legitimate 3-point threat for the Wolves’ bench. There are options available assuming Stephenson doesn’t pan out. But we’ll have to see how those 10 days go first.