Watching Lance Stephenson over the past two seasons we’ve seen a lifetime of development sandwiched into two seasons — from raging tire fire, to solid contributor, to legitimate force of nature (with his fair share of collateral damage) helping push the Indiana Pacers towards the best version of themselves. As of this morning Stephenson is the newest member of the Charlotte Hornets and while he’s a tantalizing get for the explosiveness of their offense, there is still plenty of room for personal growth.
Aside from some evening of his emotional keel and decision-making, the biggest thing separating Stephenson from the ceiling of his potential is consistent shooting. Although he shot 49.2% from the field, you can see from his shot chart that Stephenson really only scored at an above average rate from two places — around the basket (particularly on the left side) and from the right corner.
The right corner is particularly significant, both as a hot spot and for the contrast it provides with the rest of his three-point shooting. When we look at the numbers holistically we see that his great three-point shooting from the right corner was mostly washed away by his inaccuracy from everywhere else. He shot just 35.2% on three-pointers overall last season and was, curiously, slightly better on pull-up threes (37.0%) than he was on catch-and-shoot threes (34.4%). That fact is especially curious because there is still a large patch of blue behind the three-point line on the right wing and, having watched plenty of Pacers games last season, I feel comfortable assuming that many of those shots were of the pull-up variety.
Still, even with a shot pattern so limited in the scope of it’s efficiency, we can still see quite a bit of improvement over last season.
In 2012-2013, Stephenson took a lot of long two-pointers from around and just beyond the right elbow. This season those shots all but disappeared, in favor of this flame shape on the right side of the rim. Being right-handed, the implication would seem to be that Stephenson made a point of driving right when coming off of high screens instead of pulling up.
The positive advancement is that while the bulk of his shot attempts on the right wing came on the perimeter he’s recognized the inefficiency of shots from the right elbow and moved them to the rim. The problem is he’s still relatively inefficient (compared to the league average) on pretty much everything on that right side of the floor (except the corner).
The Hornets are getting a talented young player whose shot selection is clearly on an upward trajectory. The next step is smoothing out his efficiency behind the arc and figuring out how to finish his right handed drives into the teeth of the defense, as well as he does from the other side of the floor. In Charlotte he’ll also be balancing ball-handling duties with Kemba Walker and the offensive gravity of Al Jefferson in the post should mean lots of opportunities to spot-up. Elevating that catch-and-shoot three-point percentage to a reliably threatening level is an absolute must.
The shot charts in this post are the work of our own Austin Clemens. Check out shot charts for any NBA player going back to the 1996-1997 season here.