Eric Gordon as a Pelican for Another Year: Is That Something You Might be Interested in?

Flash forward to July 5th, 2016 and the free agent market is starting to thin out. Harrison Barnes has been maxed out, but the Warriors vow to match. Nic Batum, Chandler Parsons, and Demar Derozen have all gotten maxes too and some 8th and 9th men with “upside” have gotten contracts that the Twitterverse mock endlessly. The Pelicans have missed out on their dream wings and Eric Gordon, having nearly 20 games in the previous season after having yet another surgery has a “buyer beware” sticker on him from getting quality offers starts contemplating signing a one-year deal so he can hit free agency again in the even more lucrative summer. As crazy as it sounds, it might turn out to be the best options for both Eric Gordon and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Let’s start with Eric Gordon first. Even if he comes back and has a solid showing down the stretch, his time in New Orleans will be considered a disappointment by any measurement. He has yet to play 65 games in a season, and has played as few as 9. In total, he has missed 152 games in 5 seasons and has a PER of 14.2 in New Orleans – for reference, 15.0 is considered an “average” player. However, he has generally been more healthy the past 3 seasons and has shown he can bounce back quicker than expected. Because of this, he might believe that if he can finally break through and play 75+  games in 2016-17, he can get a big offer the following summer.

And if it is a good thing to be a free agent in 2016, it is a great thing to be a free agent in 2017. The cap will be approximately $92 million this summer, but is projected to jump up to almost $110 million in 2017. That’s almost an additional $500 million in the pool for players to fight for, and teams that missed out on the very thin free agent crop in 2016, will be dying to throw cash at players in 2017. While Gordon is no longer a max player, let’s imagine teams think he is worth 12% of their cap. If he is a free agent in 2016, that could equate to a 4 year/45 million dollar type of deal. In 2017, counting for that same percentage of the cap will net him nearly 10 million more dollars over those same four years. Also, he gets a one year deal on the front end in this scenario, as opposed to hoping for it on the back end, when he would be 32 years old. Financially, it could make a lot of sense for Gordon to have one more “prove it” year and then get his payday in 2017. He will get to play with guys he is used to, in a system he is familiar with and a coaching staff that loves his greatest strength – the 3 ball.

For the Pelicans, bringing Gordon back for a year isn’t the dream scenario, but it might be the most viable. Part of the Pelicans reason for not trading Ryan Anderson was the belief that they could re-sign him this summer. If that is indeed the plan, the Pelicans will have to keep Ryan Anderson’s cap hold on the books, and if they do that, they won’t have the money to lure a significant free agent to New Orleans in 2016. At that point, the choices might become:

1.) Overpay a mid-tier free agent for 3-4 years

2.) Bring Eric Gordon back for one more season

Given those two scenarios, couldn’t you argue that the smart move would be to bring back Gordon and try to make a free agent splash in ’17? Doing this also allows the Pelicans to operate over the cap in 2016, giving them both the mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception. While, admittedly, those two exceptions won’t be as valuable as previous years, they still will be more valuable than the room exception and no bi-annual. Also, don’t underestimate Gordon’s evolving relationship with this organization and the city of New Orleans. It has not gone unnoticed by the team, and bringing back a guy who genuinely cares about this team and is playing for a monster contract after being humbled could be very appealing to a staff dying to win next season.

Back in the summer of 2011, Dell Demps did something very similar with Carl Landry. In a transition season, the Pelicans needed a veteran power forward to hold down the spot and Landry didn’t get long-term offers that he liked that year. Dell signed Landry for one season, and after another one year deal the following season with Golden State, Landry got the long-term deal he desired. That season, Dell’s cap room was basically worthless, so he used it to bring a guy back that he valued in the locker room and on the court. The following year he let Landry go, and got upgrades in Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez.

A one-year deal for Eric Gordon could end up being a great deal for both parties. The Pelicans get a known quantity that can help immediately while staying flexible for the following offseason. Gordon gets to stay in a familiar setting and showcase his skill set in an effort to get one last huge payday in the most lucrative offseason in NBA season. Again, not the ideal scenario, but, Eric Gordon for one more season: Is that something you might be interested in?

10 responses to “Eric Gordon as a Pelican for Another Year: Is That Something You Might be Interested in?”

  1. Yes, at the right price ($10M for one season is fine) and if there are no better options. (It’s hard to see top players wanting to play here for a lottery team.). Under these circumstances, it’s the best thing for the Pelicans

  2. I raised this issue privately for a while and publicly on the podcast at least once. I can see Gordon getting an absolute raise but a relative pay cut. I think $17mish was what I said and I can see that. I don’t like it long-term, but a market-right contract is something that is never a bad thing. How market right is that? Depends on Eric.
    Good article.

  3. When continuity doesn’t work, let’s double down on the continuity. Who will be the last guy watching a Pelicans game in Fox?

  4. ryanschwan I have seen several snide comments like this here and on our site Twitter, but I haven’t seen a logical argument laid out against it. 
    Again, look at the scenario I have laid out in the piece — What would you do? Would you prefer to throw 12-15 mil a year at Kent Bazemore or Langston Galloway for 4 years? Or press pause for a year, get some production, maybe develop a rookie that isn’t quite ready yet, and then hit it hard in 2017?

  5. Eric Gordon is a net negative. Let him walk and try anything else. Kick the tires on a d-league guy. Sign an equivalent guy in Randy Foye or Aaron Brooks. Just let Gordon walk.

  6. CoReMeGa The one thing I have learned from the comments to this piece is that many are WAY too optimistic on the types of players they think we can get this summer. Most assume we will get an upgrade on the wing. I am willing to bet that whoever we get will be objectively worse than Eric Gordon. And we will have to give them multiple years at a bloated price to get him. 
    So, for me, Eric Gordon at 1 year would be more appealing. Then, hope you take off next year and you have a much better pitch to make to FA’s in 2017

  7. @Michael McNamara
    I was just playin!
    This is actually a pretty likely scenario and would probably be best for both Gordon and the Pels.
    RUN IT BACK … 1 more time!

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