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Rivers: Stephenson Best Player In Trade

Rowan Kavner

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – Doc Rivers feels the Clippers received the best player in their trade sending Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes to Charlotte in exchange for Lance Stephenson.

Rivers said on “The Fred Roggin Show” on The Beast 980 that Stephenson’s addition improves the team and that Stephenson will likely come off the bench with the potential to play a variety of positions.

“I like that he can play multiple positions, really two, three and one, because he’s a terrific passer,” Rivers said. “I look at him really more to be a utility player who can come in and play literally three different positions for us.”

Rivers said he’s learned throughout the years that the team receiving the best player in a trade gets the best trade, and he feels the Clippers won in that regard.

“In this case, I think Lance is the best player in this trade for us,” Rivers said. “We’ve already done that, and we clearly have more to do. We have to. We have to add a couple more, three or four more players, in my opinion, to our roster.”

For the Clippers to do that, they’ll have to get creative, just as they did in trading for Stephenson. Rivers believes the Clippers can do that while navigating around their difficult cap situation.

The team appears far from done when it comes to moves this offseason, beginning with the deal for Stephenson. Rivers said he’s “not so sure” about Stephenson as a starter, which means the starting small forward for the Clippers’ upcoming season may not yet be on the team.

“We sign people,” Rivers said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. Worst case, and it’s not a bad case, I still think Lance is an upgrade if we wanted to start him.

“But we’re not done, clearly. We’re going to be very creative.”

Rivers said there were a lot of reasons the Clippers liked Stephenson. He described Stephenson as an undervalued asset and said he knows Stephenson can play from his body of work.

“I like what he can bring for us on the defensive end first,” Rivers said. “I like his body type. He’s a tough kid, very competitive kid.”

Rivers said that latter trait has gotten Stephenson in trouble before, but Stephenson’s proven in major playoff games he can be a top-tier defender, and the Clippers need his toughness and athleticism. It also helps the Clippers that Stephenson’s only guaranteed for this upcoming season with a team option on the next year.

“Obviously the contract part of it was terrific for us,” Rivers said. “If Lance works out great, and it is a gamble of sorts, then we have the ability to sign him. If he doesn’t, it’s a one-year deal.”

Rivers said the Clippers had a chance to grab Stephenson at this last trade deadline, but the Clippers decided not to “for a lot of reasons at that time.” They hoped it’d be something they could revisit in the summer, and it turned out that way. Rivers said he had conversations with people close to Stephenson and felt comfortable trading for him.

“I have a pretty good feel, I think, on who he is, what he wants to be, and somewhat of why he struggled last year,” Rivers said. “I feel very comfortable with that.”

Prior to his departure, Rivers said he had a “very good talk” with Hawes. The hope is that a change of scenery will benefit both Stephenson and Hawes. Rivers said sometimes a fit just doesn’t work out for a various reasons, and it was tough for Hawes to find his rhythm in a role off the bench.

After parting with Hawes following the first year of a four-year deal, the Clippers hope Stephenson will fit in as a solid bench piece.

“We’re in this to win it,” Rivers said. “That’s why we’re making these moves.”

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