Eric Gordon doesn’t even want to entertain the thought of coming off the bench. He came here to lead. He came here to set the tone. At least that was what he told the Times-Picayune this week when he was asked about a possible 6th man role. I am not going to waste my time comparing this quote to Tyreke Evans’ quotes when he was signed by the Pelicans to come off the bench as a super sub this summer. I won’t point out how Tyreke said he would do whatever it took to win, even if that meant coming off the bench after being a starter his entire career. I won’t do that because this isn’t another Eric Gordon character assassination piece.
This is a joyful piece; a piece that celebrates the fact that this latest turn in the Eric Gordon saga likely brings us one step closer to his exodus. Despite all of rhetoric that Dell Demps tries to sell fans and media on in public, the fact is that he has been trying to move Eric Gordon for more than a year now. The problem is that he has no takers, and that should not come as any surprise when you consider Gordon’s salary and production. When you consider how few games he has played over the last three years, and how mediocre he has looked when he has been on the court, Gordon’s 2 year/$30.4 million dollar contract is among the worst contracts in the NBA.
But there is one glimmering ray of hope, and Pelicans fans have the Phoenix Suns to thank for it. Back in the summer of 2012, the Suns tried to do everything they could to get New Orleans not to match the contract they were set to sign him to. In addition to giving him a max salary, they made the final year of his deal a player option – the least desirable of all options for a team. Despite all the red flags and the undesirable way the contract was set up, GM Dell Demps still matched. Now, two years later, that option that Phoenix put in to deter New Orleans from matching might become the franchises saving grace.
As I have pointed out numerous times in the past, the Pelicans have to get Gordon’s contract off the books by the beginning of next summer at the very latest. That will be the last summer that the Pelicans will have Anthony Davis on his rookie contract before a monstrous extension that will start off at nearly $20 million per year will kick in. The ideal scenario would be to trade Eric Gordon for an expiring contract this summer or trade him to a team that has enough cap room to just absorb his salary without giving us anything in return. The fallback option, if that could not be done, would be to use the stretch provision next summer to create some flexibility.
Trading Gordon this summer for an expiring is possible, but the Pelicans would likely have to give up assets to get that done because Gordon’s deal is so bad. The more likely option is that they would have to take back another questionable long-term contract (McGee, Sanders, Galinari, etc.) but that does not help them create room for the 2015 free agent class. But let me ask you this – What if Gordon’s deal was an expiring? What if, instead of being on a 2 year/$30.4 million contract, he was on a 1 year/$14.8 million contract? Would that make him much easier to trade?
The answer is undeniably yes. If Gordon was an expiring, he would be much more sought after than he would be in a scenario in which a team owed him for two more years. Suddenly, it becomes an expiring for an expiring swap, and you can envision scenarios in which the Bulls would prefer to have Gordon for one year over Carlos Boozer. Or maybe the Knicks would prefer one year of Eric Gordon over one year of Tyson Chandler. The Bobcats might be willing to gamble on Gordon if its only for a year, and the same could be said for a team like the Hawks.
All of a sudden, Gordon goes from a negative trade asset to a neutral one, and that would be HUGE for the Pelicans. But how do we get there? It’s quite simple actually, and ironically, all we have to do is look back to the trade in which he was acquired for the answer. The Clippers agreed to send Gordon and others to New Orleans for Chris Paul under one condition – that Paul would opt in to the second year of his contract. Paul, like Gordon currently, had one year left on his deal and a second year that was a player option. The Clippers did not want to risk making the trade and then losing Paul the following summer, so they insisted he opt in. He did, and the trade was completed.
What the Pelicans need Gordon to do is the exact opposite. The Pelicans need to inform Gordon and his agent that they can get him to the destination that he wants and puts him in the role that he wants if he simply agrees to decline his player option for 2015-16. If he does that, the Pelicans and Rob Pelinka (Gordon’s agent), could spend the next few weeks fielding offers from numerous teams and resolving this situation. The Pelicans should want nothing more than to get Gordon off the books, and Gordon surely wants nothing more than to showcase his skill set on a team that can utilize him, with a fan base that might appreciate him.
And if you are Eric Gordon, why wouldn’t you agree to this arrangement? By his comments, he obviously thinks he is still a top-level NBA player capable of leading a franchise and “setting a tone.” If you believe that much in yourself, then prove it. You don’t need the security of that extra year, because once you go show out to the league, there will be a dozen teams knocking at your door to give you a new max contract in 2015. And since you will be further along in your career, the starting salary for that new max deal will be significantly higher than the last one you signed.
It’s an ideal scenario for everybody. If you are Demps, you call him up today and tell him that he will come off the bench if he returns here next season. But, if he agrees to void his player option, that you will work hand-in-hand with Gordon and his agent to find him an ideal landing place this summer. He gets the love and adoration that he desires, and the Pelicans get to transition to the tandem that should have been their starting backcourt all along.
Sounds like a win-win to me.