Eric Gordon: eHarmony

Published: April 12, 2013

Finding the right partner isn’t easy.  Eric Gordon has been unhappy for much of his time as a Hornet, but perhaps it’s because he hasn’t found that someone.  With that in mind, I decided to watch some film in hopes of finding Gordon a special person.

Last week, I debated whether or not Robin Lopez would be as successful in grabbing offensive rebounds when Gordon was the ball-handler instead of Vasquez.  This led me to thinking: is Gordon more successful when a particular Hornet big is setting the screen?

I went through all of Gordon’s pick and roll occurrences on mySynergySports and marked the result of each play.  The results are listed below, but before we get to them, I want to emphasize that this was not actually the focus of my study.  I was more concerned with applying the eye test to these plays, but I took down the results to see if anything popped out.


  Make     Miss   Foul    TO     And 1     Total
Davis      25      44     11     16         2         98
Lopez      27      37      5      8         0         77
Anderson      12      17      8      2         1         40
Smith       2       1      5      2         0         10


Quick Hits on the Statistics
-Smith’s sample size was extremely low, but I included these numbers because one of them popped out to me.  In just 10 pick and rolls with Smith, Gordon got fouled 5 times.  This percentage was absurdly high relative to the foul rates from other players’ screens.

– Gordon, statistically, was least effective scoring off of Davis’ screens.

Deeper Analysis

There was a clear result to my analysis, and it is present in both the data and what I saw in the film: Jason Smith is by far the best Hornet big at setting screens.  An increased sample would be helpful in reinforcing this theory, but it is blatantly obvious from watching the few screens he set for Gordon.  Smith is successful setting screens because he is mobile, possesses the size to set hard screens, and has the willingness to be physical in setting them.  Lopez is not as mobile as Smith but is willing to put his body into the screen, Anderson is not as mobile and prefers to slip his screens, and Davis does not possess the bulk to put his body into the screens.

This study focused on how Gordon scored coming out of picks and did not include his assists.  Gordon has shown an ability to split the two pick and roll defenders with a pass, and he and Davis have showed increased chemistry since the break.  He has found Lopez on occasion as well, but Davis possesses much better hands and it appears that Gordon has more confidence passing it to him than he does with Lopez.

The statistics were influenced some by Gordon’s shot selection, and unfortunately, as his shot has been off all year, this could have altered the results.  Despite Gordon’s success with Lopez, many of his shooting attempts came off of jumpers, and I believe this can be explained.  Because Monty Williams puts Lopez in when the opposing team has a big center, this opponent is less often willing to hedge and defend Gordon (because this defender lacks mobility).  Instead, this player is often sagging on the pick and roll and allowing Gordon to take jumpers, and because Lopez sets good screens, Gordon’s man is not able to get to Gordon in time to contest the shot.  Even though I have detailed numerous times that Gordon should be getting to the basket, he is receiving some open looks that he needs to take in order to keep defenses honest.  There is a huge difference between stepping into a jumper (like he was in these instances) and taking fadeaway jumpers.

Gordon was especially salty in last Friday’s game against the Utah Jazz.  Gordon appeared to be giving lackluster effort on defense, so Monty Williams pulled him from the game.   Williams calmly addressed Gordon, who walked past him and muttered something under his breath.  Williams immediately blew up at Gordon and had to be restrained by Assistant Coach Randy Ayers.  Gordon did not return to the game.  This is very atypical behavior for Williams, who rarely shows this level of emotion on any occasion.

I thought that Gordon would shut down after the Utah incident, but in Gordon-like fashion, he again did exactly what I didn’t expect him to do.  Since the Utah game, Gordon has been much more assertive offensively.  He has been aggressive in each of his 3 games since the incident, and although it may not show in the statistics, he is doing a remarkably better job of involving his teammates in the offense.  He is taking fewer jumpers, trying harder on defense, and is attacking the basket more quickly.  I mentioned earlier this season that free throws are a fairly good indicator of how aggressive Gordon is being, and in the past few games, he has registered 8,11, and 7 free throw attempts.  This is good to see.

Surprise Party
The news that Gordon would play in his first back-to-back of the season was released just hours before a Sacramento game that had serious implications on the draft lottery positions of each team.  It seems strange that the Hornets, who have been very conservative in how they have played Gordon since he joined the team, would choose to play him on a back-to-back when the season was effectively over.  Simply put, it appears that the Hornets are going to take every opportunity they can to showcase Gordon before the season ends.

Looking Forward
3 games remain before the Hornets finish their season, and now seems like an opportune time for Gordon to remind GMs of other teams of his talent level.  Anthony Davis looks to have sustained a mild injury that will probably preclude him from playing in the remaining games, and Greivis Vasquez is hobbled with an ankle injury.  This should place an increased offensive burden on Gordon, and his trade value may tick upwards if he delivers a memorable performance or two.


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