Resume: 20.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals, 34.4 minutes, 45% FG, 25% 3PT, and 75% FT… Team record in games played: 6-3 (15-42 without)
Do you know how difficult it is to evaluate an NBA player with just 9 games on their previous season resume? That’s like watching 15 minutes of a movie and being forced to decide whether or not the movie is good. And I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t watch a whole lot of New Orleans Hornets basketball. Gordon played 2 games in the first 11 days of the NBA season, then went over 3 months without stepping on the court. With an extremely limited sample size to judge from, I looked at what Eric Gordon did in July, rather than what he did in his 9 games during the season. How do we know Eric Gordon is a top 50 player?
A good place to start would be in Las Vegas, where in early July Gordon came very close to making the 2012 USA Olympic Basketball team; incredibly impressive since he had just 9 games under his belt from the previous season. Even though the pool of players had thinned out drastically because of injuries to Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh, Gordon was one of the final 16 guys, and was most likely a poor James Harden postseason away of potentially filling the 11th man role in London. Let’s pretend James Harden, who was a late addition to the pool of players for USA Basketball, plays as poorly throughout the entire postseason as he does in the NBA Finals. That last spot comes down to Harden, Gordon, and Rudy Gay, and I think Gordon might get it because really all you need in an 11th man is a zone-busting outside shooter, and Gordon fills that role perfectly. Wasn’t that the logic of Michael Redd making the team in 2008?
If Gordon would’ve been selected to this year’s USA Basketball Team, he would’ve played with the best players in the world for a month and come into this season with some serious buzz as a major breakthrough candidate. Is it out of the question for a 23 year old shooting guard to make a leap from 20.6 points per game to 25.6 points per game? I don’t think so. Remember in 2010 when Eric Gordon played for Team USA in the FIBA World Championships? The following season he posted career highs in points per game (a 6 point increase), rebounds, assists, and minutes. Guys make a jump after they play with USA. That’s just how it works. Gordon wouldn’t have been an exception.
Instead, Gordon’s bubble burst and he didn’t make Team USA. You know what might ease the pain of not making the Olympic basketball team? $58 million, that’s what. After Gordon signed an offer sheet worth $58 million to play for Phoenix, New Orleans matched the offer and Gordon remained a member of the Hornets, which is by far the luckiest moment of his career so far. After a solid draft (Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers), an excellent trade (sending Gustavo Ayon to Orlando for Ryan Anderson), and keeping their best player (Eric Gordon) the Hornets could be considered a legitimate sleeper for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Isn’t Davis, Gordon, Anderson and Rivers (all under 25 years old by the way) a nice group to build around for the next 5 years? I’d say so, but let’s get something straight, without Gordon, this is just a young roster that likely struggles for a couple years until they find some more pieces. But right now, Gordon is one of the 5-8 best shooting guards in the league (depending on whether you classify guys like Andre Iguodala and Joe Johnson as shooting guards or small forwards). He makes the difference for the Hornets at this point. Even without the Team USA experience this summer, it’s time for Eric Gordon to make the leap.