Stretching Eric Gordon

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Published: April 10, 2014

At this point, there is no more debate. It was fun going back and forth with readers about whether Eric Gordon would ever live up to the contract or whether he was a key ingredient for the future of this Pelicans team. But now, it’s just boring. There is literally nobody on the other side of the fence, and there is no joy in saying “I told you so,” when the end result is just so depressing. On a team with so many bright spots, there is one dark cloud hanging over the franchise – Eric Gordon’s contract.

Gordon is due $30.4 million over the next two years and that severely limits what Dell Demps can do to improve his roster around the Core Four. You can’t feel too bad for Dell, though, because matching the contract that Phoenix gave Gordon was his decision, and now he has to try to crawl out from under the one terrible move he has made on an otherwise impressive resume. As I showed you last week, getting out from under this deal is imperative as the 2015 free agent class looms, and with it, a chance to put the final piece into the championship puzzle.

I laid out possible trades, but with Gordon hurt yet again, that seems unlikely. You can also hope that Gordon opts out of his final year of his contract to secure a long-term deal elsewhere. That is more likely than moving him for an expiring, but still requires too many factors to be considered likely. But, even if neither of those things pan out, there is still a third option — The Stretch Provision.

In short, the Stretch Provision allows a team to take the money owed to a player and stretch the cap hit out over an alloted number of seasons. Per the new CBA, the team can stretch it out for twice as many years remaining plus an additional year. So, if the Pelicans were to stretch Eric Gordon this summer, they could stretch that $30.4 million over five seasons (2 x 2 +1) or if they stretch him next summer, they could stretch his final year that he is owed $15.5 million over three seasons.

With a weak free agent class in 2014, it probably would not be worth giving him the entire $30.4 million to not play for the team. You go into the season hoping that he is healthy and playing well so that you can move him the way that the Raptors moved Rudy Gay with a similar contract this year (one year guaranteed, one year player option). If you can’t move him by the deadline, you hope against hope that he opts out of the final year before 2015 free agency hits. If neither of those things happen, you can use the stretch provision, and all of a sudden his 2015-16 cap number plummets from $15.5 million to $5.17 million.

This gives you the ability to go into the 2015 free agent class and target anybody you want, knowing that if that free agent agrees to a contract in the moratorium period, you have the Stretch ace up your sleeve. You can essentially head into free agent that year assuming that you can stretch him if you get a big fish to bite. If not, no harm, no foul – you just let the contract expire or use him as a valuable trade chip at the 2016 trade deadline.

Depending on what the Pelicans do this summer, they can head into the 2015 summer with 12-15 million dollars in cap space, even with Gordon’s $5.17 million in dead money hanging on their books. As I stated last week, the summer of 2015 would likely be the last chance you would have to add a major piece to the Core Four, because Anthony Davis’s max contract would kick in the following year. And again, that free agent class is full of guys that fit exactly what this team is looking for, as the names include: DeAndre Jordan, Omer Asik, Jeff Green, Kawhi Leonard, Thaddeus Young, Nikola Vucevic, and Marc Gasol.

The next two seasons would be admittedly tough for the Pelicans, as they would have the Core Four plus whatever guy they plucked from the 2015 free agent class making about $56 million dollars. Add Gordon’s dead money and that takes you right up to the cap. They would have to draft well in 2015 and 2016, getting rotation players on cheap deals. Also, finding some more Brian Roberts or Alexis Ajinca type talents on minimum contracts wouldn’t hurt. Jeff Withey and Pierre Jackson would still be pretty cheap at that point as well.

Dell has shown in the past that he can get solid rotation players on minimum contracts (Anthony Morrow, anyone?), so that should not be an issue. If stretching Gordon can help Demps put a stud Center next to Anthony Davis or an elite three-and-D wing, then he would be foolish not to do it. It is just another alternative that Dell has – a worst case scenario one might say – if nothing else could be done about this singular black cloud that hangs over this organization.

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