Given that former Indiana Pacer standout guard Lance Stephenson worked out for the Cavaliers yesterday, it’s a great time to revisit when the Charlotte Hornets signed Stephenson in July 2014. After the end of the 2013-14 season, the Hornets set their sights high in the free agent market, signing then restricted free agent Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $63 million offer sheet. However, that wasn’t meant to be, as Utah matched the offer and signed Hayward to an extension. Instead, the Hornets signed their backup plan, Lance Stephenson to a three-year, $27 million deal.
At the time, Stephenson was coming off a stellar, but tumultuous, season with the Pacers. Many saw the signing as a boom for the Hornets, especially given the reasonable price they paid for Stephenson.
Big move by my man Lance..Hornets gonna be tough to beat. Kemba, Lance and Al Jefferson
— Ashton Gibbs (@AshtonGibbs12) July 16, 2014
What a spectacular deal for the Charlotte Hornets on Lance Stephenson. Out after 2 at 9 million a year? It's almost like they're well run
— Chris Wittyngham (@ChrisWittyngham) July 16, 2014
Lance Stephenson to the Hornets for 27 million: One team's headcase is another team's steal.@FisolaNYDN
— Warren Leight (@warrenleightTV) July 16, 2014
Speaking of liking rising East teams, really like the moves by MJ's Hornets. That roster is full of promise and Lance was a bargain
— Glenn Yoder (@glennyoder) July 16, 2014
After meh signings of MarvWill and Brian Roberts, #Hornets strike big with Lance Stephenson and still have room #NBA http://t.co/3vaIBaKIsF
— Chris Sheridan (@sheridanhoops) July 16, 2014
Lance Stephenson is going to the Hornets to be the #1 scoring option. I guess Michael Jordan knows a little bit about player personnel
— Jude Adjei-Barimah (@1prince_adjei) July 16, 2014
Power move by the @hornets picking up Lance Stephenson!
— Romar Morris (@speedkills_21) July 16, 2014
Lance Stephenson Gave Up $17 Million to Sign with Charlotte, But Here's Why It Was Smart http://t.co/wKlzfSkas6
— The Big Lead (@thebiglead) July 16, 2014
Huge upgrade on the wing. Playing off of Kemba? They're MUCH better. RT @DanielTDenny: How much does Lance move the needle for the #Hornets?
— Moke Hamilton (@MokeHamilton) July 17, 2014
Blog Post: Mark my words. "Lance Stephenson will be worth it for the #Hornets" http://t.co/vgrZD73Fwe
— Jonathan M Alexander (@jonmalexander) July 19, 2014
Some even thought the Hornets dodged a bullet when the Jazz matched their offer for Hayward.
Hornets dodged a bullet when Jazz matched Hayward's max deal then got Lance for less than half the price. These ain't your father's Bobcats.
— Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) July 16, 2014
The Hornets take low-risk gamble on Lance Stephenson. Better than overpaying Gordon Hayward.
— Shaun Powell (@Powell2daPeople) July 16, 2014
@wmsteele yo, you guys won. Utah matched on Hayward, and you get Lance for cheap
— Richard Lawler (@rjcc) July 16, 2014
Lance Stephenson on a 3-year, $27 million deal is better for the Charlotte Hornets than the Gordon Hayward 4-year, $63 million offer sheet.
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) July 16, 2014
So instead of Hayward for $63M the Hornets get Marvin Williams and Lance Stephenson for $41M combined. Not bad.
— CelticsBlog (@celticsblog) July 16, 2014
Over at the SwarmandSting.com, the Hornets FanSided affiliate, author Reece Helms claimed the signing put the Hornets back on the map.
“Not only does Lance make the Hornets a legitimate contender in the East, but he puts them on the national radar, and the map of the NBA.”
Despite the optimism, Stephenson didn’t live up to his billing.
Stephenson lasted a single season with the Hornets averaging just 8.2 points per game. As a result, Charlotte was not a contender in the East, as they failed to qualify for the playoffs with a mediocre 33-49 record. While the Lance signing seemed valuable at the time, it depreciated quickly. Stephenson was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason, who then traded him to the Grizzlies later in the year. In 2016-17 he signed a one-year deal with the New Orleans Pelicans, but was waived after suffering a groin injury.
Hayward, meanwhile, is a very productive player for the Jazz. He’s currently averaging 21.6 points, 3.5 assists and 5.7 rebounds. He also earned his first All-Star Game appearance this season.
Stephenson’s career has been derailed due to injuries, but even when healthy, it’s easy to think that the Hornets wished the Jazz didn’t match that Hayward offer sheet.