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

Published: February 27, 2016

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?


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