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Report: Iowa Wolves to Sign Veteran Guard Lance Stephenson

Stephenson played for the Minnesota Timberwolves for six games in the 2016-17 season, and joins the G League squad after most recently playing professionally in Puerto Rico.

LA Clippers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Former Minnesota Timberwolves guard Lance Stephenson is joining the Iowa Wolves G League team, according to a report from HoopsHype Senior NBA Insider Michael Scotto.

Stephenson, a 10-year NBA veteran who has played 554 career regular season games for eight NBA franchises, most recently played for Leones de Ponce in the Puerto Rican BSN league. “Born Ready” averaged 20.3 points on 44.1/21.7/76.2 shooting splits, 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists to 4.0 turnovers, and 0.3 steals in 31.3 minutes per game across four appearances for the club.

Whether or not Stephenson, 33, will eventually play his way into a two-way contract or time with the NBA club obviously remains to be seen. But this is a somewhat splashy signing for an Iowa Wolves team that is 3-9 and struggling to make 3s (9.7 per game, 30th), score (104.6 ORTG, 24th) and rebound (46.4% rebound rate, 28th).

The former Indiana Pacers irritant last played in the G League in 2021-22 for the Grand Rapids Gold, the G League affiliate for the Denver Nuggets — so there is a (albeit small) connection to Wolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly. Stephenson averaged 19.8 points on 47.1/30.6/68.6 shooting splits, 8.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists to 3.8 turnovers, 0.8 steals and 0.3 blocks across 35.0 minutes per game in 12 appearances, all starts, for the Gold.

Stephenson’s last NBA run came in 2021-22 with the Atlanta Hawks and the Pacers. He averaged 8.3 points on 45.5/30.0/78.8 shooting splits, 2.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists to 1.6 turnovers, 0.5 steals and 0.1 blocks in 17.7 minutes per game across 46 appearances for the two teams.

As Scotto noted, the Timberwolves do have an open roster spot. Whether Connelly and the Wolves front office maintain that flexibility as the team approaches the February trade deadline — and subsequent buyout market — is, obviously, unknown.

But the NBA club could sign a G League player (or any other current NBA free agent) to a non-guaranteed deal and waive that player if something on the trade market requiring the Wolves to use that final roster spot materializes down the road. Alternatively, they could look to sign one of their three two-way players (Luka Garza, Jaylen Clark or Daishen Nix) to a full-time NBA deal and sign Stephenson to a two-way contract.

While some teams may keep a roster spot open deep into the season so they can save money as a means to later sign a player in the buyout market while staying under the luxury tax, that is not a concern for the Wolves at the moment. Minnesota has more than $2.5 million in space beneath the tax, so they could sign a player to a veteran’s minimum for the rest of the season and still have more than $500,000 in space at season’s end, presuming they made no other moves.

New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Stephenson played for the Timberwolves in the 2016-17 season on a pair 10-day contacts one month apart. He averaged 3.5 points on 47.6/0.00/50.0 shooting splits, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.8 assists to 0.7 turnovers in 11.2 minutes per game across six appearances.

The first chance for Stephenson to potentially suit up for the Iowa Wolves is a matchup with the Cleveland Charge in Des Moines on Thursday at 7 PM CT. Fans can watch the game on ESPN+. After that, they play the Charge again on Friday in the second game of a home series, before a two-week break for the holidays.