Replacing Eric Gordon

Published: June 26, 2016

Eric Gordon, whether you liked the guy or not, was a huge part of this Pelicans team. His 3pt shooting last year was essential to Anthony Davis’ first playoff berth. He has been in New Orleans for 5 years, and he’s been the highest paid player on the team the entire time. He may not have turned out like fans had hoped when he signed that big deal, but Gordon at the very least has NBA level talent. We all saw the effects of not having that level of talent last season.

The biggest flaws in Gordon’s game stem from his loss of athleticism. He can no longer effectively drive and finish at the rim after all of his injuries. The team hasn’t put a good defense on the court in years and he has been part of that problem. His loss of athleticism coupled with his size has also made him one of the worst rebounders in the entire league. However, he has value as a fairly reliable floor spacer and scorer who can be passable as a ball-handler at times. That alone gives him a place in this league. But the Pelicans can’t cover up his defense, and they need more from his position.

Evan Fournier (RFA)

*Disclaimer* This is admittedly the least likely of the free agents I’ve written about to join the Pels for a number of reasons:

  • He’s a RFA and Orlando has expressed the desire to bring him back both in statements and in actions (trading his main competition for minutes in Victor Oladipo)
  • He will likely cost upwards of $20mil/season
  • The Pels just drafted a very similar player in Buddy Hield

HOWEVER, I wrote this before all that happened, and I am still intrigued by him. You can never have too much talent, right?

Like for like there is one name out there that stands out as a replacement for Gordon above the pack. Evan Fournier and Eric Gordon are surprisingly similar players. They share the same role on the court, and they even had virtually the same usage% this year, within two-tenths of a percent.

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Neither turn the ball over. Neither is a great rebounder. Gordon happens to be one of, if not the worst rebounder in the NBA to get consistent minutes, but Fournier isn’t that far behind. Neither is a great defender, though Fournier has better physical tools and hasn’t lost a step to knee surgeries. We’ve all seen how much length and versatility matter in these playoffs, and at 6’7″ with a wingspan of about 6’9″ Fournier is much better suited to match up with today’s guards. He isn’t too strong, but he is competent enough to guard 2’s and some 3’s, which he did a good amount of this season under defensive-minded Scott Skiles in Orlando.

This 28 point performance against the best defense in the league tells you all you need to know about his offensive game. If he’s got the ball he’s a dual threat. Give him too much space and he’ll burn you from deep. Run him off the 3pt line and make him put it on the floor and he can still burn you. He’s active off the ball and works to get open as well. Not all those things are true about Gordon.

You have to run him off the line because Fournier is among the best sharp shooters in the league. A career 38.9% 3pt shooter (with 2 seasons shooting over 40% from deep), he is just a bit better statistically than Gordon (38.3% career from 3 with 1 season shooting over 40%). His TS% of 58.7 was 6th in the league for guards this past season (min 20mpg).

Unlike Gordon, however, his efficiency as a scorer isn’t tied to launching 3’s. He finished the season in the top 20 of guards in scoring efficiency on drives (min 4 drives per game). For an idea of how impressive this is just look at the 4 players right ahead of him: Reggie Jackson, Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, and Kyrie Irving.

Gordon isn’t actually far behind on that list, but he shot just 50% within 3 feet of the rim the last 2 seasons and just 43.2% on drives in 15-16. Fournier meanwhile shot 63.5% within 3ft of the rim the last two seasons and 48.8% on drives in 15-16. Both are very high marks, the guy embodies the modern NBA 2-guard.

About 35 percent of Fournier’s field goal attempts were from within five feet, and he hit them at 60.2 percent. About 41 percent of his field goal attempts were from 3-point range, which he hit at 40.5 percent.”

Fournier is also much more likely to make plays off the dribble than Gordon is, who doesn’t have the best handles to put it nicely. Getting a SG that is truly a dual threat to shoot and drive effectively would be a first for this Pelicans team. Alvin Gentry should be drooling to get that skill set on the court next to Jrue Holiday, and it would be nice to see Gentry have to ability to put some size and length at every position.

At 23 years old with 4 seasons in the league, Fournier fits that mold of young vet who can improve and grow with the team. He is a Restricted Free-Agent who reportedly turned down an 8mil/year extension offer last summer, so he won’t be too cheap. As I’ve said before, another Eric Gordon contract could be a worst case scenario for this team, so what would you be willing to give Fournier? As always it is all about the $$.


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