Clippers: Why Doc Rivers may trade Lance Stephenson now

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Dec 5, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers (R) talks to Los Angeles Clippers forward Lance Stephenson (1) during the second half against the Orlando Magic at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Stephenson’s puzzling demotion to the Clippers’ bench

The major demotion of Stephenson to the bench is worrying a lot of Clippers fans and for good reason. He plays with great energy, he can attack the rim, he can setup his teammates, and he can actually play defense (unlike Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce). From starting the first nine games at small forward and doing a solid job, to consistently losing playing time, he’s been demoted throughout the first quarter of the season.

This week, it went another step further. Doc didn’t play him at all on Monday night against the Detroit Pistons, and when asked about his reasoning for that poor choice, he offered no real explanation (per Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times):

Yes, the Clippers won the game and other wing players stepped up, but that isn’t the point. Stephenson is the closest thing the bench have to a point guard who can create opportunities for teammates and make some plays, and you can’t give a player like that no minutes just because you don’t “feel it”. And it isn’t just this DNP either. He didn’t get off the bench on November 19 against the Golden State Warriors, and his playing time has constantly been dropping over recent weeks.

Despite the unconvincing “we’re going to go with him” remark, Doc has hardly given fans or Stephenson himself much encouragement that he has a bright future in Los Angeles.

Now, over the Clippers’ last six games, he’s averaged just 13.7 minutes a night in the five games he’s played with a DNP in their last outing. It makes no sense that someone like Crawford, who has been inconsistent offensively and a total liability on defense, continues to get more minutes, yet that’s what Doc is doing.

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Of course, Stephenson’s numbers aren’t going to be good, but he simply hasn’t had the playing time to have a chance to record anything impressive.

The playmaking is there, the energy is there, the driving ability is there, the defense (he’s forcing players to shoot 7.1 percent worse than normal from three point range) is there, and he should be getting more minutes. At the very least, he definitely should not be traded.

What Doc’s planning, though, is yet to be seen.

Considering the lack of playing time all season, the DNP’s, the team looking for interest in him, and the re-trade deadline on December 18, it isn’t impossible that Lance Stephenson will be traded soon. At this time of the year, trades can happen before you realize. That’s what other teams will want to happen if they try and take a chance on Stephenson with the option to send him elsewhere if things don’t work out.

Yet, while it’s clear the possibility is there, it would still be surprising if Doc made this move. Even compared to some of the questionable moves he’s made in the past, this would take misusing talent and acting hastily to a new level. Not to mention the fact that L.A. would struggle to get much in return for Lance at all right now. However, as all basketball fans and Clippers fans know, a lot of crazy things can happen when trade season strikes.

Next: 5 reasons Lance Stephenson should not be traded

For L.A., the chance of this deal happening soon can’t simply be ignored even if it doesn’t seem any more likely right now.

If he does trade Stephenson, Doc’s current decision making for the Clippers will have plummeted even further south.