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Lance Stephenson to Grizzlies: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul acknowledges a fan during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2016

The Los Angeles Clippers agreed Thursday to send struggling swingman Lance Stephenson to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Jeff Green as the Clippers announced.

Dan Woike of the Orange County Register first reported the deal was done. 

The Grizzlies will also receive a future first-round pick from the Clippers, per ESPN's Marc Stein. TNT's David Aldridge confirmed the Grizzlies would receive Los Angeles' first-round selection in 2019, adding it's a protected pick. Woike added "will be lottery protected in 2019 and 2020. Becomes a 2nd rounder in 2022 if LAC is in lottery previous years."

However, Bobby Marks of The Vertical noted the Denver Nuggets could end up as the big winners of the draft-pick swap since they will receive the selection if it falls between No. 6 and No. 14.

The Clippers needed to get more athletic at small forward. Stephenson was not fitting in with Doc Rivers' system, and Paul Pierce has been playing like someone who is 38 years old. 

Green is four years older than Stephenson, yet he's playing at a higher level right now. The 29-year-old is averaging 12.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, roughly equal to what Stephenson and Pierce combined were providing the Clippers. 

Scoring is not a problem for the Clippers, but Green will provide more production at small forward to help them improve their current standing as the NBA's sixth-most efficient offense, per Basketball-Reference.

Green thrived in Boston's system, especially in 2013-14 while playing with Rajon Rondo, so pairing him with Chris Paul should help him reach those career highs once again. 

Stephenson, 25, was averaging 4.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.4 rebounds per game in his first season with Los Angeles. Acquired from the Charlotte Hornets this summer in exchange for Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes, Stephenson has not been able to reclaim the two-way brilliance that turned him into a near-All-Star in Indiana.

However, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported Grizzlies players and head coach Dave Joerger don't want Stephenson waived and plan to win with him.

Stephenson played 15.8 minutes per night under Doc Rivers, his lowest average since 2011-12, and lost his starting job after only nine games. The Clippers have been 7.3 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the floor, per Basketball-Reference. Despite the on-court issues, Stephenson has received all positive reviews from inside the locker room—a stark contrast from his short stint in Charlotte.

“From a distance, you don’t really know,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said, per Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star. “But getting him in here, he’s a bright personality. He’s someone who’s fun to be around. He wants to learn, he wants to get better. Obviously it’s a change coming off the bench…but he’s willing to do it and everybody loves him.”

The Grizzlies will hope that carries over the rest of the season. Stephenson has never been the same since leaving the protective cocoon of Indiana, where team president Larry Bird and coach Frank Vogel played key roles in his development and nurturing. It coalesced into a brilliant 2013-14 campaign, where Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game and combined with Paul George to create the NBA's most dynamic pair of defensive wings.

“I love the kid,” Vogel told Rivers of Stephenson, per Buckner. “He’s got a great competitive spirit. His image is inaccurate in not being a good locker room guy and all that stuff. Our guys really liked him and our staff really liked him."

With his contract carrying a team option for 2016-17, Stephenson will have a three-month audition to see whether he's worth a $9.4 million flier. The overwhelming odds are against Memphis picking up the deal, but if Stephenson can return to even 75 percent of his 2013-14 form, anything could happen.

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