Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In the Spotlight: Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson
Position: Shooting Guard
Ht: 6-5, Wt: 220
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Class: Freshman
College: Cincinnati
DOB: 9/5/90

  • At 6’5, 220lbs, Lance is physically advanced with an NBA ready body (it’s actually too much muscle).
  • Scorer - Has the ability to completely dominate on the offensive end.
  • Great one-on-one skills, with an array of moves to take his man off the dribble… Exceptional cross-over (both left to right and right to left), hesitation move, and right in-and-out dribble.
  • Extremely versatile on the offensive end. Lance possesses the handle which allows him to play the point, the shooting touch to play the wing, and the strength to finish inside.
  • Fierce Competitor with a drive to be the best.
  • When Lance gets into the paint, he's very adept at using his body to fend off his defender.
  • Sees the floor well – displays solid court vision and is getting more comfortable setting up his teammates, as his trust level increases
  • Very confident player – Has a real swagger to his game.
  • Relishes big games / moments - he’s played with pressure since a young age, so the spotlight is nothing new for Lance. Seems to flourish when playing against other elite players and never shies away from guarding the opposition’s best player.

  • Body language and maturity are real concerns - When things aren’t going well his immaturity shows as he pouts and point’s fingers… show’s disgust.
  • Added muscle mass / bulk inhibits his agility and mobility on the court. This is a concern as Lance now lacks the foot speed necessary for the next level, on both ends of the court. Would benefit losing a few lbs which would help his explosiveness.
  • Has a tendency to over dribble and get caught up in a one-on-one battle… Needs to stay within the offensive flow, and when he’s attacking the basket just make a move and explode.
  • Moving Without the Ball - Must improve playing without the ball in his hands and remain effective.
  • Lance has to work on getting himself into position so that he can knock down the jumper on a catch and shoot. He’s much more comfortable shooting off the dribble, than spotting up. He needs to work on reading the defense and using screens to get free.
  • Has to improve his foot speed defensively. His lateral mobility isn’t where it needs to be, to guard much quicker 1’s and 2’s.
  • Needs to become more active on the defensive end – rotate from the weak side, helping out off the ball, creating deflections, etc. He tends to leak out to half-court looking to start the break.
  • Defensively, he’s always looking to switch and rarely is able to fight thru screens.
  • Transition Defense – Needs to get back on defense after he misses a shot, or turns the ball over. He has a tendency to compound a missed shot, by taking a few swipes for the ball to try and regain possession, rather than sprinting back.
  • Lance is not an extremely high flier.
  • Lance isn’t the most well spoken, polished kid off the court.

Lance is an extremely talented ball player and watching him play you can see how gifted an offensive player he is. At times, he can completely dominate the game, with his ability to create his own offense and score. He can take you off the dribble, shoot from deep, slash to the hoop, get out in transition, etc. It doesn’t take much for Lance to get going and he’s capable of putting up big scoring numbers on any given night.

One challenge for Lance is that over the past few years, Lance has not gotten any taller, but he’s continued to get stronger. Typically, filling out would be ok, as his body would be more ready for the contact of the Big East and ultimately the NBA – but for Lance it’s a problem. This added weight that Lance has put on, is limiting his quickness and explosiveness on the court. It makes Lance look much less athletic and someone lacking the burst to explode to the hoop. It’s great to have an NBA body, but not at such a high cost. Finding the right balance is crucial to his development.

Secondly, the thing about Lance that’s been well publicized is his immaturity. He has a tendency to let his frustration show with his terrible body language when a teammate fails to catch a pass, convert on an easy assist opportunity, when a call doesn’t go his way, or just mixing it up with an opposing player – there always seems to be something. Lance seems to be handling himself much better at the college level and he’s showing a willingness to be part of a team, which is very encouraging.

The emotion that Lance shows on the court, should also be looked at as a positive. If he’s able to channel this “fire” in the right way, you have as competitive a player as you’ll find. His drive, desire, and hunger to be the best are evident – it just needs to be applied appropriately.

My Take: It’s a wait and see approach with Lance, because at this point he does not have the lateral quickness to defend at the next level, or the explosiveness to be as effective in the NBA. If he’s able to find a comfortable playing weight that helps him get back some of the burst he once displayed, he would significantly improve his ability to produce at the next level. He has the offensive tools, but he needs to show improved elusiveness and better on the ball defensive skills before I would give Lance consideration in the top 25 picks of the 1st round.

Lance is someone worth closely monitoring throughout the season – both his body language and his progress…Because of his talent and his ability to score, he has the opportunity to greatly improve his draft status, which for me right now is as an early 2nd round selection.

* Lance reminds me a lot of Tyreke Evans in that neither player is ultra quick, or super athletic, but both know how to get to the basket and score. Lance is also a flexible guard that can play multiple positions, similar to the way Tyreke started his college career as a 2 guard and later transitioned to the point.

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