If Eric Gordon is traded prior to the deadline this Thursday, it will most likely be to the Golden State Warriors. As reported by ESPN’s Chris Broussard last week, the Warriors are among several teams interested, but it appears that the Mavericks and Rockets are focusing on Gordon as a backup option should they miss out on Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum next summer. Basically, they are seeing what Demps wants for Gordon now but likely wouldn’t pull the trigger until mid-to-late July.
Of course waiting to mid-July will give Dell Demps more options because Eric Gordon’s trade veto clause expires on July 13th. Instead of having to negotiate with the limited number of teams that Gordon would approve a trade to, Dell can send him anywhere (Hello Bobcats!). The problem with waiting until then, however, is two-fold. One, the other teams that are interested and/or have the assets you want might fill their needs in free agency or via the draft. Two, Eric Gordon could get hurt again and his trade value could fall even further than it already has.
This is a scenario that I don’t think enough people consider as a real possibility when projecting forward. It seems like the prevailing logic is that the Hornets should let him play these next 29 games and show the league that he is back to being the player that was on the verge of an All-Star birth and almost made the Olympic team, then move him at a higher value this summer. The guys has played 27 out of a possible 119 games with us over two years, so how in the heck can people think that he will play 26 or 27 out of the next 29? While it’s possible he stays healthy, doesn’t the objective data tell us that it is more likely that he doesn’t?
So, if Dell wants to avoid that risk and cut ties this week, one option stands out above all others- the Golden State Warriors. Golden State was fighting for a top four seed just two weeks ago, but after a five-game losing streak, they head into the final stretch of the season fighting for a playoff birth. Their biggest problem, aside from their atrocious defense as of late, is that they don’t have a guy who can create for himself at a high level at the end of games. In fact, Jarrett Jack has been that guy for them for the most part, and we all know how that turns out after watching Jack try to fill that role for us last season.
Theoretically, Eric Gordon could be that guy for Golden State, and if he is healthy, the Warriors could have a team that can compete with anyone due to their scoring and depth. According to Golden State writer Marcus Thompson, the Warriors like Eric Gordon but are too scared of his injury history to give up BOTH Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes for him? It’s brilliant of Dell to ask for both, I mean why not? But what if they came back and offered just one of them and the choice of one of their less talented rookies (Festus Ezeli or Draymond Green) and also made the Hornets take back a contract (Richard Jefferson or Andris Biendris)? Should this be something the Hornets consider?
First, let’s take a look at the two possible cornerstones. Klay Thompson is a 6’7″ shooting guard with above average defense, a killer outside stoke, but relatively poor shot selection. Harrison Barnes is a super-athletic small forward who is a fantastic finisher at the rim, a good three-point shooter from the corner, but gives you little to nothing else statistically at this point of his career. Thompson plays the position that the Hornets would have the biggest need at if Gordon were to leave, and there are also more small forward options available via free agency and the draft this summer, so it appears that if the Hornets had to choose, Thompson should be the guy they take back as the centerpiece of this deal.
As for Ezeli vs. Green, both are Monty Williams type of guys and could come in and play from day one, though both lack significant upside. On a contending team, they might project as a 9th or 10th man, capable of coming in and giving you great minutes in short spurts. Ezeli has better upside as a low post scorer and shot-blocker while Green is a better on-ball defender and creator. Finally, you have the contracts that have to come back to New Orleans in order to make this deal work for both parties. On one side, you have Richard Jefferson who has $10 million due this season and $11 million next season. Andris Biendris, on the other hand, is due $9 million this season and next. In both cases, next year’s salary is a player option, but you would expect each player to opt-in and take the money.
Performance wise, Jefferson gives you more than Biendris right now and could provide the Hornets with some depth and small forward in the long term. He also could be easier to trade next year as he would both be a solid piece for a contender and an expiring contract. But Biendris costs $2 million dollars less, and with the Hornets looking to potentially make a splash this summer, every penny counts. If the Hornets do the deal with Jefferson as the salary filler, they’ll go into the summer with $13 million in cap space; with Biendris it is $15 million.
With all that in mind, here is the deal that both teams should consider, and hopefully by Thursday, agree to:
Golden State receives:
New Orleans receives:
(*Note: Golden State is currently just barely over the luxury tax, even before this deal. The Hornets could also agree to take Brandon Rush in this deal and that would net Golden State an additional $7 million dollars in savings because they would not have the lux tax penalty AND they would get a rebate check from the league. Rush is out for the season with a torn ACL and has a player option of $4 million next season. Dell Demps has long been a fan of Rush.)