NBA 

Eric Gordon’s Trade Prospects

The ground has been quite shaky between the New Orleans Pelicans and Eric Gordon. The two sides haven’t been on the same side of things throughout their time together, but this season things seemed to have simmer down. Gordon’s short history with the Pelicans started with the Los Angeles Clippers’ acquisition of Chris Paul. In return, they got the pick that eventually landed them Austin Rivers in the 2012 NBA draft.

Obviously, not the marquee piece that the Pelicans wanted at this point. But, really, Gordon was the headline of that trade. And why not? After a few exciting seasons with the Clippers he had the potential to be one of the faces of the shooting guard position going forward. With the shooting guard position being relatively weak league wide, Gordon was a great piece to have going forward.  Gordon wasn’t too happy with the trade, as there were reports that Gordon and Chris Kaman thought that they were lied to about their status within the organization.

And who could really blame them? Blake Griffin was a budding star and so was Eric Gordon. For once in their history, the Los Angeles Clippers were a destination team. They didn’t do anything wrong, though. They just made the move to get the superstar that they were eyeing after missing out on LeBron James. The NBA is a business first and Gordon found that out the hard way. Being upset with the trade wasn’t the end of things though.

Gordon’s tumultuous history with the Hornets/Pelicans didn’t stop there. Gordon only played nine games in his inaugural season with the Hornets due to injury. There was some sentiment from the peanut gallery that Gordon just didn’t want to play in New Orleans. And really, that was shut down once Gordon opted to have surgery in February of that season.

Though there was honestly no way to confirm whether he wanted to be there or not, Gordon made things worse during his restricted free agency stint. Gordon signed a four year, $58 million offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns and made it clear that that was where he wanted to play. Even though the Hornets made it clear that they would match any offer sheet that would be thrown at Gordon, he was upset that the Hornets allowed him to go on a free agency tour and wanted to play elsewhere. He made that clear when he made this statement:

“If (the Hornets) were interested, there wouldn’t have been no tour, there wouldn’t have been nothing,” Gordon said. “There’s been no negotiations. I was right there in Indiana. I haven’t received no calls, to me personally, they’ve contacted myagent.

“As for now, I don’t know what’s going on. (If the Hornets match) as of right now, I’d be disappointed.” Is there anything the Hornets could do to change his mind? “I don’t think there is,” Gordon said.

“If you feel that I’m that caliber player,” Gordon said, when asked if he felt disrespected. “You don’t think I knew I was going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer? I knew that. I took it into account. I’m taking accountability for how I play. What do they mean as an organization? What do I mean to them?

“Obviously they’re saying all that (about him being the cornerstone on which the franchise will rebuild) to scare everybody off. If I don’t really hear that from them, and they haven’t shown it, it wouldn’t be like this right now.”

“I’m a basketball player at the end of the day. Where I’m at, I’ve just got to play ball. But as of right now, it’s going to be for the Phoenix Suns. If they match, I’ve got to play basketball.”

And that’s really where the disconnect between Gordon and the organization happened. It was quite clear that Gordon didn’t want to play there–even with Anthony Davis coming into the fold. But it seemed to be more of a thing of pride than anything else.

Now, Gordon has a different tune. It’s clear that Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the NBA today and will be going forward. They’ve made moves for Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans who have played stellar basketball this year. The lone player left out of the equation is Eric Gordon. And that’s why we see his name in trade rumors, today.

Gordon has made it clear that he would like to stay in New Orleans and try to make things work. He believes the three guard lineup of him, Holiday and Evans is something that could prosper going forward. As a three man unit, they’re stellar offensively but give up a lot on the defensive end and that’s what Monty Williams really worries about going forward. They’ve got a net rating of -1.3 in 257 minutes. That isn’t bad, but it isn’t what you’d expect from those three as a combination when you pay them as much as you do. The real issue is that they allow 113.3 points per 100 possessions when they’re on the floor and that’s not going to work long term. So moving Gordon for another piece that may contribute more defensively is something that the Pelicans should look to do.

Now, Gordon is a player with some value. It won’t be easy to move his deal, but it certainly is doable. If we take a look at his past and his present, he has some skills that many teams could possibly use. It’s just a matter of finding out which teams those are and that’s the part that the Pelicans are going to struggle with the most. Gordon hasn’t lived up to his max deal by any means. He’s played well under that and has had injury issues in the past. He isn’t a two way player by any means, but he’s good at scoring in spots and is still versatile.

Two years removed from knee surgery, Gordon seems healthy. He’s played well as of late, but still, not at the max level that the Pelicans expected when they matched his deal two years ago. He’s got two years left on that deal with a player option in 2015-16 and is expecting at least $30 million. That’s not a deal that teams will casually trade for–especially when a player hasn’t lived up to that expectation.

Naturally, you’d have to think that Gordon’s deal would go to a team looking to contend. And depending on what the Pelicans are looking for in prospective trades, you could see the market for Gordon dwindle before it catches any steam. Gordon would be a massive part of any teams’ salary going forward and they’d have to be willing to live with that.

If the Pelicans are asking for first round picks, their market is already shot. With the potentially loaded 2014 draft class waiting in the wings, teams have been unwilling to come up off of first round draft picks. Think about how many we’ve seen moved without heavy protection this season. The Washington Wizards are the only team who was really willing to come up off of their first round pick for this season, and that’s looking like more and more of a loss as the weeks go by. The pick was top 12 protected, but the Suns could use that pick to potentially move up in the draft or grab a key veteran player that they feel could help them going forward.

The Bulls have a dearth of possible picks in this year’s draft, but I can’t really see them too willing to take on Gordon’s salary. They’ve already got most of their cap committed to Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah is going to have to be extended in the same year as Gordon potentially and they’re going to have to make a move with Jimmy Butler for the future. And besides, the Bulls don’t have any pieces that they’re truly willing to let go of after the Luol Deng trade. They’re looking to make free agency moves in the next two offseasons after Carlos Boozer’s figure is clear. Gordon’s deal is just too hefty for a team like that to do nothing more the mull over the prospect of making that trade, even with a third team.

And the Pelicans would have to throw in a sweetener in order for that deal to really work for other teams. They’d have to take back hefty deals for teams who are willing to move money around to fit Gordon’s salary in, but since he hasn’t lived up to his deal they’d also have to throw in future draft considerations. They’ve already given up their first round pick for this season to the Philadelphia 76ers in their draft night deal for Jrue Holiday. They’d have to either consider giving swap rights in the future to a team or providing their 2016 first round pick. They aren’t able to move their 2015 pick because of the Stepien rule.

The Pelicans have reportedly been looking for a third team to deal with in a potential Gordon swap, and that would be something that could help facilitate a potential deal. But three team deals are hard to come by on a normal basis. Needless to say, it should be a while before Gordon is moved anywhere. But he definitely has potential value for prospective playoff teams this season.

Gordon can serve as the second ball handler on any team. He’s a scorer that can create his own shot and that’s something that is going to be valued come playoff time. Although, he hasn’t been the most efficient scorer this season. He’s taking career lows in three point attempts and free throw attempts this season. Although he’s shooting 40% from three this year, he’s only taking 3.8 per game. And with his average shooting percentage at the rim, Gordon struggles to find ways to create extra points for his team.

That’s something that would make him worth his max deal. A possible change in scheme could help Gordon out with that. The Pelicans are a team that shoots well from three, but they rarely take them. Outside of Ryan Anderson and Anthony Morrow, there isn’t a player on the team that takes too many shots from deep. In today’s NBA, the three ball is a mark of efficiency and effective scoring.

The Pelicans have one of the best offenses in the league–although it’s lacking without Ryan Anderson spreading the floor. And with Jrue Holiday out indefinitely, the Pelicans are going to need someone to run their offense through. Brian Roberts has been a nice fixture, but hasn’t been consistent enough all season to make the Pelicans comfortable with him as a starting point guard and primary ball handler in their offense.

Tyreke Evans can play a bit of point guard, but that isn’t ideal as the Pelicans prefer him as their key player providing scoring and penetration off of the bench. Evans isn’t a player that is going to spread the floor with his shooting because he’s always been a poor shooter from deep. The Pelicans don’t thrive off of the deep ball, but Evans would be too much of a liability in the starting unit without Holiday and, more importantly, the second unit would be poor without him.

So it would make sense for the Pelicans, with Holiday out, to hold on to Gordon for now. The trade talk should slow down unless they get a good 2014 pick for Gordon. That’s something that I doubt that they’d really be able to find. We’ll see how things develop here, but don’t expect too much soon.

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