The Clippers completed the first part of their roster revamp Monday evening, acquiring shooting guard Lance Stephenson from the Charlotte Hornets in a swap of underachieving players that also included forward-center Spencer Hawes and veteran forward Matt Barnes.
The trade gives the Clippers the elite perimeter defender they have long sought but comes with some risk considering the 6-foot-5 Stephenson was a flop last season with the Hornets.
It also leaves the Clippers with a glut of shooting guards, meaning it could serve as a precursor to a trade involving Jamal Crawford since the team has already signaled strong interest in re-signing free-agent guard Austin Rivers.
Stephenson, 24, could not recapture the form that made him a rising star while helping the Indiana Pacers reach the Eastern Conference finals in back-to-back seasons, going from a starter to a bit player with the Hornets. He averaged 8.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 25.8 minutes per game last season while shooting 17.1% from three-point range — numbers that were down across the board from his final season with the Pacers.
Hawes, 27, was similarly disappointing in his only season with the Clippers. He was supposed to be a floor-stretching big man but struggled to fit in and fell out of the rotation before the playoffs, averaging 5.8 points and 3.5 rebounds while making 31.3% of his three-pointers, his lowest output since his rookie season.
Nevertheless, both Stephenson and Hawes retain considerable upside. Stephenson has shown potential as a prolific scorer who is strong defensively and can play both guard positions as well as small forward. Hawes is a former starter who can play center and power forward while addressing the Hornets' need for more shooting.
Stephenson is a relatively low-risk acquisition because he has only one more season guaranteed at $9 million; his contract also includes a team option for $9.4 million for the 2016-17 season. Hawes has three years and about $17.2 million left on his contract.
Stephenson tweeted a picture of himself in a Clippers jersey, writing that he was "looking forward to doing whatever I can to help bring a championship to Los Angeles and Clipper Nation."
Barnes, 35, who was the team's starting small forward, is coming off one of his best NBA seasons but has logged 18,000 minutes and is closing in on the end of his career. Barnes' $3.5-million salary is only partially guaranteed for next season.
Stephenson has been on the Clippers' radar since before the trade deadline last season, when it became apparent that he was not working out with the Hornets. The Clippers inquired with coaches who had previously worked with the moody player to assess whether he might be a better stylistic fit with a veteran-laden team led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
The trade reflects the Clippers' need to improve their roster in the coming months by means other than solely free agency because they are largely constrained by the salary cap. Doc Rivers, the Clippers' coach and president of basketball operations, has already identified re-signing center DeAndre Jordan as his top off-season priority.
The team also hopes to keep Austin Rivers and has interest in luring veteran free-agent forward Paul Pierce, who would need to decline a $5.5-million player option with the Washington Wizards. The Clippers could offer Pierce only $3.37 million per year for up to three years if Jordan re-signed with them.