Published: December 24, 2013
It was impossible to watch the Pelicans – Kings game and not see how terrific the Holiday/Evans combo was on both sides of the ball. Their length created turnovers on the defensive end and their speed got open looks for themselves and teammates on the offensive side of the ball. Both guys are combo guards that can defend multiple positions, and even have the strength and craftiness to slow down big men when they have to rotate. Holiday and Evans are the perfect guards for Monty’s system, but there is one tiny problem – Eric Gordon is still here.
Throw away the “heart is in Phoenix” comment and the medical history. Let’s just talk about fit. In a defensive system that asks players to rotate so frequently, Holiday and Evans have the length to close out on shooters and the size to at least make a big work for points when they rotate onto them down low. Eric Gordon can not do either of those things. Offensively, Evans and Holiday are both facilitators while Gordon is a pure scorer. On a team where Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis need 30-35 shot attempts combined per game, the former is needed far more than the latter.
The eye test tells you these things, but we are getting to a point where there are enough numbers to back it up as well.
– The top Two-Man combination for the Pelicans this season? You guessed it: Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. In the 328 minutes that the combo has played together, the Pelicans are +83 (a little more than +12 per 48 minutes). The free throw rate skyrockets up to 33.8% (up over 9%). The teams field goal percentage climbs more than 5%, as does the three-point percentage. Meanwhile, the opposition’s free throw rate goes down and their turnovers go up.
– On the flip side, the Holiday/Gordon two-man combo has been very ordinary. It is the 22nd most effective two man combo, as it outscores opponents by only .9 points per 48 minutes. The team is average from the field, average from three, and the foul rates on both sides are… you guessed it, average.
– The top three-man lineup? Jrue, Evans, and Ryan Anderson. #2? Jrue, Evans, and Anthony Davis. Anybody see a pattern here?
– The only time Gordon shows up in the top lineups is when he appears with Anthony Davis, but that goes for everybody on the Pelicans. When you are on the floor with AD, the team will likely play well. But Jrue and Tyreke put up impressive numbers without Davis on the floor. Can’t say the same for Gordon.
– Best four-man unit by a mile? Yep, Jrue, Evans, Anderson, and Davis. That is the core of this team moving forward and what a core it is. Per 48 minutes, they outscore their opponent by over 20 points while having a rediculously low 10.6 team turnover percentage.
– Eric Gordon makes $30.4 million over the next two years, as his yearly salary continues to increase. Evans makes $32.2 over the next three years as his salary continues to decline.
This team is at its best when it can get Holiday and Evans on the court together. They fit the defensive scheme and they make the players around them better offensively. Eric Gordon is a third wheel, and an expensive one at that. The numbers say that the Pelicans would be better served with a three-and-D type wing next to their Core Four, or a number of pieces that would make the bench stronger so that the Core Four didn’t have to do so much heavy lifting.
The days of being angry at Gordon for his comments or his lack of passion are gone. Instead, it is time that we simply realize where this team is heading long term. The future features a backcourt of Evans and Holiday, and that means Gordon is the odd man out. No hard feelings EJ, but business is business. And quite simply, trading Gordon and moving to a Holiday/Evans backcourt is what’s best for business.