Season in Review: Eric Gordon

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Published: May 19, 2014
Eric Gordon

Heading into this season our writers were optimistic about the possibility of the real Eric Gordon showing up.We wanted it, the fans wanted it, Gordon himself seemed to expect it. In a lot of ways it seemed possible that if we just willed it to happen, it would in fact happen.

McNamara wrote in our Pelicans season preview that “going from a hobbled Eric Gordon to a healthy Eric Gordon is the [team’s] biggest upgrade. Monty has got to love going from a terrible defensive player at the point of attack to one of the top-5 defensive point guards in the league.” He continued to say that “The guy we saw last year was named ‘Eric Gordon’ but he was not Eric Gordon. The Pelicans got little to no production from their shooting guard position last year, but if that is replaced by a full season of a healthy Eric Gordon, that is the biggest upgrade on the team.”

Ginsberg chimed in that “If this preseason is any indication, a completely healthy Gordon will be an immense boost to this Pelicans team, and may be the difference in regards to their playoff chances.”

Jason later made a bold prediction that “Eric Gordon plays at least 30 minutes per game in at least 63 games.” He was dead on. Unfortunately he kept on predicting–  “Eric has several incentives to play well this season and following with respect to getting his next contract, and has spent the bulk of two seasons focusing on his health. My bold prediction is that investment combined with incentives leads to a favorable outcome for all.”

(Props to Jason, by the way, who had this to say about what to watch for in 2013-2014– “Eric Gordon’s 3P%. Here are Eric Gordon’s games played and 3P% in each season: (78, 38.9%), (62, 37.1%), (56, 36.4%), (9, 25.0%), (42, 32.4%), and this is a strong relationship (plot it). In this case, I think the basis is in his leg strength. His trend during last season was that he started strong following his time off, got significantly worse from distance, then steadily improved. Also, I noted a number of misses that were short. Thus, this may be a proxy for his health, at least with respect to his knee issues.”)

After spending the majority of his first two seasons as a Pelican in a suit, Eric Gordon appeared in 64 games this season, the most since his rookie year. His three point shooting percentage also hit a career high.

Yes, in some ways Eric Gordon was better than expected in 2013-2014. Unfortunately we’ve just about covered all of them. The Eric Gordon of old is likely no more, and the Eric Gordon of new is hardly worth a fifth of his currently salary.

If forced to choose a word to summarize Eric Gordon’s season I think I would go with depressing. As demonstrated above, there was legitimate optimism around the site that the Eric Gordon who came over in the CP3 trade and played a few stellar games in his first season here would reappear, reinvigorating our team and leading us to a playoff berth in the process.

What we got instead was a strong dose of reality. Eric Gordon isn’t the same player he was pre-injury.

Let’s start with defense, an area we once thought Gordon would really excel. With Gordon on the floor the Pelicans gave up 110.4 points per 100 possessions, which is worse than any team as a whole put up this season. When he rode the pine they gave up just 103.9 points per 100 possessions. Over the course of the season that would have been good enough for 14th in the league. Not great, but not atrocious either. While occasionally he does get a steal, it’s clearly not enough to make up for the rest of his defensive shortcomings.

Offensively the Pelicans scored 1.1 points less per 100 possessions when Gordon was on the floor. His usage rate went down substantially from last year to this one (29.4 to 23.2), but his offensive rating (105) still couldn’t match even his worst years with the Clippers. His free throw rate dropped to a career low .273, and even when he got there he only shot 78.5%.

Since Gordon does very little other than score on the offensive end, these numbers are all the more concerning. He grabbed a grand total of 30 offensive rebounds this year and recorded an assist just once every 10 minutes he was on the floor at a ratio of 1.55 assists for each turnover.

A while back Mike Pellissier tweeted out a concerning stat– Gordon was by far the worst player on the Pelicans when looking strictly at the team’s production when a player didn’t play. Branching off of that, Pellissier and Jason had a nice back and forth about Gordon about it that’s worth reading.

We can look at all of Gordon’s failures this season and find some silver lining in that he did stay on the court for most of the season, and that he did, at times, play like a star. In mid January he had an outing against the Rockets that Schwan called “phenomenal”, continuing on to say that “He did what everyone hoped for when he was signed.” Yet even when Gordon was at his best, the team was unable to win. It was the only time all season Gordon surpassed 30.

So what’s next for Gordon?

McNamara laid out the case in late December that Holiday and Evans are the backcourt of the future for the Pelicans, and then followed it up with a piece explaining why Gordon and Holiday don’t work together.

I think he summed up Gordon’s future in New Orleans quite nicely–

“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.”

Indeed it is best for business. Unfortunately, getting rid of Gordon has proved troublesome. While he does still have some value as a player, his contract is so absurd that we’ll have to include pieces or take back trash in order to move him. Additionally he’s still living with his head in the clouds in regard to his abilities as a player.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important for professional athletes to be cocky, but Gordon seems unable to grasp that his performance is actually representative of his abilities. While he may think he’s capable of being the best (or thinks he is the best? I’ts hard to tell), the numbers clearly demonstrate that he has been thus far incapable of bettering his team in a manner consistent with his salary.

Monty discussed the possibility of Gordon coming off the bench recently, and immediately Gordon shot back that he doesn’t even want to entertain the idea of it.

Duh.

McNamara has given considerable thought to how we may rid ourselves of Gordon, so I won’t bother to repeat anything. Simply check out the possibilities.

Regardless of what Gordon does or doesn’t do on the court, I eagerly await the day that he’s no longer a Pelican. Combine his injuries, poor play, and complete disregard for the reality of his situation and you’ll understand why so many people are disappointed in him.

3 comments
504ever
504ever

I feel like with Eric Gordon, the problem is the contract.  While I don't agree he is only worth 1/5th of his current contract (1/3rd is more like it), the contract is still a big issue.  

In fairness to Gordon, when he drove the lane I thought he got fouled much more than fouls were actually called, and there is a reasonable chance he will be better next year.  We have all seen players play better two years after major surgery.  (See Lopez's first year in NOLA.)  Also, it would not be surprise me to see Gordon play 20-25 minutes off the bench and be a big time scorer whose defensive deficiencies are less exposed against opponent's bench players.  (In spite of everything he was an efficient scorer last year averaging 1.2 points/shot.)

Nevertheless, Gordon has to go before sumer 2015 so we can use his cap space to improve the team at C, SF, or both.  The trick is how to do it, and I don't see him opting out of his $15M salary in his player option year.

PatWorth
PatWorth

@504ever  I agree with the 1/5 should be more like 1/3. I cannot wrap my head around that to go back and read the rest of the article.