Eric Gordon and Changing the Cast

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Published: January 15, 2014

Much has been made this year about Eric Gordon being the odd man out, long-term, for this franchise. Anthony Davis is the foundation and is here to stay, and though there are no guarantees that Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, and Tyreke Evans are here forever, there is little doubt that moving Gordon’s contract would help this franchise move forward more quickly.

Whenever I talk about Gordon, I can’t help but go back to his first game against Phoenix, because that’s the Gordon that got me excited about our future. That was the Gordon that was among the best in the league at getting to the rim and that was the Gordon who could split defenders effortlessly. That was the Gordon who, if you blinked, was two steps past you.

Ironically, the place in which Eric Gordon’s star shined the brightest became the place where his standing with fans fell off a cliff. The “Phoenix is just where my heart is now” story was a PR disaster.. and then mysteriously, just a couple days before the 12-13 season started, Eric Gordon was said to be out indefinitely with recurring knee issues. Gordon would go on to sit out until late December. Yikes.

I’m not here to tell you that Gordon is the player he once was or that he is without flaws. I spent my early time as a writer on the site exclusively covering Gordon and those flaws; last year, that meant the disappearing acts, the turnovers, and the annoying choices not to drive to the basket in favor of midrange jumpers, few of which went in. If you want to hear frustration and the words “you know” said with record frequency, visit my appearance on the podcast with Schwan and McNamara on Eric Gordon’s 2012-13 season.

The truth is, Gordon is not the player he once was. His athleticism still isn’t fully back, and I’m beginning to wonder whether he’ll ever regain the entirety of it. Yes, he is still athletic, and yes, he is still quick enough to beat his defender.. but he is not as athletic as he used to be, and it shows.

Some Issues Involving Gordon

Redundancy

The biggest problem with Gordon playing for the Pelicans is that he’s redundant. The offense at full strength doesn’t really need his scoring. When the Pelicans were healthy, the problem was defense, and he doesn’t do much defensively on most nights. Gordon doesn’t play help defense, he doesn’t rebound, and his “efforts” at stopping opponents in transition are downright laughable.

Gordon is a volume scorer, and the recent rash of injuries to the Pelicans has highlighted this: without Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, and Tyreke Evans, offense IS needed, and Gordon is starting to deliver. He is no longer redundant, and since Anderson has been hurt, Gordon has been averaging 22 points per game.

Calls

The Pelicans have had a lot of trouble getting to the free throw line recently and have been routinely been giving up 10, 15+ more free throws to the opponents than they have been receiving. Gordon has been no exception and his free throw attempt rate of 28% is well below the career average of 38% he had going into the season. The refs have not been doing him any favors this year.

Moving Forward

I don’t think anyone really believes that Gordon is a fixture of this team moving forward. He is a fairly one-dimensional player on a team that already has enough offensive firepower on the roster.  You can get away with not playing defense (cough, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lillard) if you are a big enough key to the offense, and when everyone is healthy, Gordon is not essential. That’s why he’s the odd man out: because what he does well is already in surplus on this roster. He is overpaid to do something that we don’t need.

That said, he is here now, and the Pelicans’ cast has changed for the time being. The time to boost his value is now, and so far, he’s done a pretty good job taking advantage of it.

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