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Advanced Stats Analysis: Lance Stephenson's Value with the Hornets

Marc Roberts

Marc Roberts

Marc F Roberts writes about fantasy basketball for RotoWire. He has won no fantasy awards, but his mom thinks his writing is "fantastic". Hubie Brown is a national treasure.

Lance Stephenson rejected two separate five-year deals from the Indiana Pacers. Instead, he chose to sign a three-year contract with the Charlotte Hornets. This is the second straight offseason that the Hornets have added a major player through free agency. (They signed Al Jefferson last offseason.) These signings have gone against the conventional wisdom that says that impact free agents don't sign with small-market teams. They have also taken the Hornets' out of the rebuilding conversation and put them in the conversation about playoff-caliber teams.

Some people may not consider Stephenson a major free agent signing because they know him more for his ear blowing in the playoffs than for his on-the-court performance, but if you dig a little deeper, you will quickly realize that he's major contributor, particularly on the defensive end. Last season, Stephenson was still just 23 years old, and he finished sixth in the NBA in defensive win shares and 39th in overall wins shares. The Pacers can't replace Stephenson with Rodney Stuckey and continue on with business as usual. This is a major pickup for the Hornets and a major loss for the Pacers.



From a fantasy perspective, Stephenson significantly outperformed expectations last season. In the preseason, he was ranked outside of the top 200 by ESPN/Yahoo but finished the year as the 75th most valuable fantasy player:

2013-2014 Stats

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Auction Value

Fantasy Rank

Stephenson

35.3

11.2

49%

2.5

71%

1.1

7.2

4.6

0.7

0.1

13.8

$7

75


Stephenson's fantasy value last season mainly came from his production in the rebounding (7.2 rpg) and assists (4.6 apg) categories.The question is: will joining the Hornets change his fantasy value next season? To find out, let's take a look at how the move will affect his playing time and pace of play.

Pace Impact

The Pacers played at the NBA's 20th ranked pace of play last season, averaging 92.5 possession per game. The Hornets played at a nearl identical pace, averaging 92.4 possessions per game. This change should have almost no impact on Stephenson's fantasy value.

Playing Time Impact

The RotoWire depth chart for the Hornets' has Stephenson slotted in as the starting shooting guard for the Hornets, sharing backcourt minutes with Kemba Walker, Brian Roberts, Gerald Henderson, Gary Neal, and P.J. Hairston. Stephenson played with the starting unit for the Pacers, but he also often initiated the offense for the second unit. He will likely play a similar role for the Hornets, working with Walker to initiate the offense when they are both on the floor and then taking over as the primary offensive attacker when Walker is on the bench.

In this role, Stephenson should get plenty of minutes. To understand what plenty of minutes will look like in coach Steve Clifford's rotation, let's take a look at a comparison showing the top five players by playing time for the Pacers and Hornets last season:

IND

Age

GP

MPG


CHA

Age

GP

MPG

Paul George

23

80

36.2


Kemba Walker

23

73

35.8

Lance Stephenson

23

78

35.3


Al Jefferson

29

73

35.0

George Hill

27

76

32.0


Gerald Henderson

26

77

32.0

David West

33

80

30.9


Josh McRoberts

26

78

30.3

Roy Hibbert

27

81

29.7


Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

20

62

24.2


The Pacers and Hornets distributed minutes in a similar fashion last season. In fact, the average minutes per game for the top four players on each team were nearly identical. As a result, I've projected Stephenson to finish next season with the same level of playing time that he got last season, 35.3 minutes per game.

Projection For Next Season

If we use Stephenson's stats from previous seasons (per-100-possessions) and project forward based on trends of similar players, while adjusting for the Hornets' pace of play and an average playing time of 35.3 minutes per game, we get the following projection for Stephenson next season:

2014-15 Projection

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Auction Value

Fantasy Rank

Lance Stephenson

35.3

10.9

45%

2.3

68%

0.9

5.6

4.9

1.1

0.1

12.3

$2

97


Stephenson's playing time and pace in this projection are exactly the same as they were last season, so his drop in fantasy value comes entirely from a projected regression in points (12.3 ppg vs. 13.8 ppg last season), rebounds (5.6 rpg vs. 7.2 rpg), and field goal percentage (45% vs. 49%). On the flip side, his assists (4.9 apg vs. 4.6 apg) and steals (1.1 spg vs. 0.7 spg) do project to improve next season, although to a lesser degree. I think Stephenson will have fantasy value next season, just not quite at the same level as he did last season. I'd recommend targeting him in the 10th round of 10-team rotisserie drafts next season.

*Stats used in the articles are from basketball-reference.com

Do you have an opinion about Lance Stephenson that you'd like to share? Would you like to know how he would rank at a different level of playing time? Please leave a comment below, or contact me on twitter @MarcFRoberts.

To see the fantasy impact of other players who have changed teams this offseason you can click here to see my archive (for example: LeBron James to the Cavs). I won't be posting an article about players who rank outside of my top 130 in most cases, but I will be tweeting about those players, so please follow me on twitter if you'd like updates on deeper-league players. For example, here is my tweet about Jimmer Fredette: