What Has Gotten Into Eric Gordon?

Published: January 25, 2015

To say that Eric Gordon was struggling to start the season would be an understatement. Then, just as he was starting to play decent, he suffered a painful injury that threatened to keep him out for the rest of the year if he opted for surgery. Courageously, however, Gordon decided to rehab his shoulder and attempt to play through it. Even the mediocre version of Gordon would have been an upgrade over Austin Rivers, who had an especially bad stretch once Gordon went out. But then something surprising happened as Gordon returned in January. Not only has Gordon been passable upon his return, but he has been good. Really good.

Gordon is putting up 15.3 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in just under 35 minutes per game. He is shooting 46.3% from the field and 40.4% from three. He is creating offense for himself and others. Nearly 80% of his 2-point field goal makes have been unassisted and his mid-range shot has been money (67% since return). And when he is being set up, he is knocking down his shots too, as evidenced by his 51.5% shooting from three in catch-and-shoot situations since his return, which is far better than the 34% he was shooting prior to getting injured. He is shooting 47.4% on wide open threes since returning, again way up from the 30% he was shooting prior to injury.

Perhaps the most important change in Gordon has been his ability to maintain his high level of play throughout the entire game. Over the course of the last few years, we have seen several games where Gordon looked great in the first half but disappeared in the 2nd half. In this stretch, however, he is actually shooting a higher FG% in the second half of games. In fact, in 3rd quarters, he is averaging 10 minutes and is shooting 54.8% from the field.

And in the 4th quarter, Gordon has become more of a facilitator, averaging around 2 assists in that quarter despite playing just 8 minutes. He also has his lowest turnover rate in that quarter. Since Gordon’s return, he has a 13:1 assist to turnover ratio in the 4th quarter, which is nothing short of remarkable. The key to his productivity seems to be the fact that he is playing on the ball more, as opposed to him just sitting in the corner and being a decoy like he was early in the season. He is setting the tone early by knocking down his jumper, then getting to the hole in the 3rd and setting up his teammates in the 4th while taking care of the ball.

Effectively, since return, Eric Gordon has been a slightly better version of what Aaron Afflalo or Bradley Beal has been this season. He has been more of a playmaker, as evidenced by the fact that he has 3 or more assists in every game since his return. In the 12 games prior to his injury, he failed to reach that threshold 8 times. And quite frankly, the Pelicans playoff hopes would have already been buried if Gordon didn’t come back and play this well. They weren’t getting anything from Rivers or Fredette in his absence, and the Toronto and Minnesota games would have likely been losses without him, and perhaps the Memphis game too.

With Jrue Holiday likely out until the All-Star break, Eric Gordon’s recent play gives the team hope that they can remain in that playoff picture as they anxiously await his return. He has given the Pelicans another creator to help out Tyreke Evans and his defense is also better than anything the other guards on the bench could give them. And not only does his recent play give the Pelicans hope for the upcoming stretch, but it is easy to envision a consistent and impressive offense once Holiday comes back if Monty staggers his three high usage guards properly.

Gordon finally has his confidence back and he has a clear role as well. By all accounts, Tyreke will move to the bench once Holiday returns, and Gordon’s role as a secondary creator will continue for the rest of the season. If that is in fact the case, and if Ryan Anderson could break out of his road slump, then the Pelicans can be an incredibly dangerous team over the second half of the season that has a chance to make some noise in the loaded Western Conference.


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