The New Normal For Eric Gordon

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Published: November 6, 2014

There is no doubt Eric Gordon is having an absolutely abysmal start to the New Orleans Pelicans Seasons. After talking to various people both inside and outside the Pelicans organization, there is a prevailing theory that his lack of touches is a major factor in his dwindling stat line. When told that I thought, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.” But is it really? I dove into the numbers.

It’s true Gordon is less of a focal point in this Pelicans offense. He is sporting a usage rate of 15.9% compared to 23.2% a year ago. It’s around an 8% drop. Yet Gordon is averaging 5.8 points per game after putting up 15.4 last season. That’s a loss of 62% worth of production. All of those numbers aren’t exactly in line with what the expectations would be. Overall his stats haven’t taken such a dramatic drop as that. Though, it’s worth noting that Gordon is getting to the line less than he has ever in his career.

Digging further, the NBA.com/stats page player tracking data yields similar trends. Gordon’s touches in the front court (on offense, basically) are down 44%. His time of possession with the ball in his hands per game is down 43%. Scoring-wise, Gordon’s points per half court touch is down 43%. So there is some credence to people saying he hasn’t been getting touches/usage/involvement.

And that’s where this becomes a catch-22.

If the way for Gordon to improve his stat line is to shoot more, or be a larger focal point of the offense, as is implied by people saying he hasn’t gotten touches so don’t expect good numbers, then the Pelicans’ offense will struggle until Gordon gets out of his slump.

Gordon is shooting a woeful 20.6% from the field and an even grimmer 9.1% from behind the arc. When he does get to the line, Gordon is only making his free throws at a 72.7% clip for a total True Shooting Percentage of 29.6%. I can’t even begin to describe how bad that is, and I don’t want to, just trust me that it’s eye-bursting bad, and it contributes to his -0.5 PER.

As a team the Pelicans have struggled with shooting at times. However they have largely taken good, open, shots. The ball just hasn’t found the net. It’s early in the season and the shots will start consistently getting made with time. On the other hand, Gordon has taken 38.2% of his shots in ‘tight’ situations (defenders within 4 feet) according to NBA.com/stats. Until he gets out of this funk having plays drawn up for Gordon just doesn’t make sense.

Shooting his way out of it through more attempts just isn’t viable if the Pelicans want to win basketball games.

But Usage Percent largely focuses on how the play ends. It doesn’t factor in off ball contributions. So, does Gordon help there? Not really. Gordon averages 16.3 passes per game with 3 assist opportunities per game. It leads to a total of 2 points created by assists per game. That’s down from 23.8 passes, 6.3 assist opportunities and 7.2 points created by assists last season. Simply put: 0.8 assists and 0.8 secondary assists aren’t getting it done.

Gordon can turn his season around. I mean, we’re only 4 games into it so far. And odds are he will. It’s tough to keep shooting percentages that low for an entire season. They will start to move up towards his career averages sooner rather than later. When that happens Gordon’s points per game will increase.

But that can’t happen by taking more shots. There is only one ball to go around in a starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis, and Omer Asik. Gordon’s touches and usage rate hasn’t decreased because he has played poorly; it’s gone down because he’s the odd man out in the starting lineup. Who do you take shots away from so Gordon can take more? This is Anthony Davis’ team now and Gordon has become a complementary part of it.

Gordon needs to embrace this new role and become a more efficient player. Otherwise he risks falling down the rotation. Move into open space instead of just standing around on the weakside. Work on becoming more consistent as a spot up deep threat to help space the court. This doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of Gordon; this is on Monty Williams and the coaching staff, too. They seem to have decided on Gordon’s role and need to help him succeed in it. Luckily, it’s only 4 games into the season. There is still time.

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