What’s Wrong with Lance Stephenson?

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Photo credit: Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

My favorite signing in the off-season after Paul Pierce was Born Ready to the Hornets. Lance had proven himself an offensive success last season with the Pacers, even if he proved to be something of a head case. The Hornets were losing Josh McRoberts and Chris Douglas-Roberts and needed a Shooting Guard who could take the game over in the final minutes. Stephenson averaged 13.8 points per game in 78 games on a team where he was the second (or even third) option on a stacked Pacers team. The excitement to see Lance be a main guy on a team could have been a wild ride into the sunset, or a wild ride directly into the sun.

I know it’s Small Sample Size Theater, but in 5 games, Lance has been really awful. Averaging 6.6 ppg on 26% shooting and has averaged 3.4 turnovers a game. From a cursory glance at stats and shot charts, Lance’s mid-range game is completely gone.

2013 Heat Chart (via ESPN)

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And another look via his shot chart via Nylon Calculus

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I think Nylon does a better job pinpointing the areas of where Lance thrived. Obviously his step to the basket was where he made his bone, but he still had some areas north of the paint that he could be relied on for a consistent shot.

Now here’s his Heat chart so far for 2014-

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Anytime outside of the paint, he’s cold. How cold? This cold-

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His At Rim percentage is a perfectly respectable 47%, from 3 to 10 feet, he’s only attempted 5 shots, so no slash-to-jumper move. He’s had more attempts from the 10 to 16ft range, but they still haven’t hit. And the less said about 16 feet and longer the better. If you look at the Assisted percentage, he’s only getting those touches a little bit. Every time he is fed the ball he makes the shot, so at this point he cannot create his own shot.

Now a look at this shooting range from last season-

2013

His At Rim percentage was astronomical, and he only dipped to 31% in the 10 to 16 feet range, which is weird considering 3-10 and 16 to 3pt were around 40%. His assisted percentage hung around 22%, until the three-pointers.

So what’s the issue? Are his new teammates not finding him in his spots the way his four-year teammates did in Indiana? Was the threat of Paul George and Roy Hibbert enough that they could draw defenders away from Lance?

Lance’s assists per game has bumped up to 5.6 a game, a full assist more than last year and is the current assist per game leader of the Hornets. Maybe he has become the primary threat and can’t get into a shooting groove since he’s drawing primary defenders instead of secondary ones. But on a squad with Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker and, for a time, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, that probably isn’t the case.

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