Connect with us

NBA

NBA Saturday: The Stakes Are High for Eric Gordon This Season

Eric Gordon stands to earn a big contract next summer if he can overcome his health issues.

Jesse Blancarte

Published

on

When the then-New Orleans Hornets (later renamed the Pelicans) traded Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011, most people agreed that Eric Gordon was the best asset heading for the Big Easy.

Gordon was coming off his best NBA season, where he averaged 22.3 points, 4.4 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, while shooting 36.4 percent from three-point range. He was the wing-man to Blake Griffin, who, along with Eric Bledsoe, DeAndre Jordan and Al-Farouq Aminu, were supposed to usher in a new era of Clippers basketball. However, in New Orleans, Gordon was pegged as the new go-to guy that would be a foundational piece for the Hornets’ future.

Unfortunately, despite hitting a game-winning jumper in his debut with the Hornets, Gordon’s first season in New Orleans did not go well. Gordon injured his knee in his debut game, which required surgery, limiting him to just nine games in the 2011-12 campaign. Despite the disappointing season, Gordon signed a four-year, $58 million offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns, which the Hornets eventually matched (despite Gordon stating that his heart was in Phoenix).

In the three years since signing that deal, Gordon has continued to play below expectations. He has struggled with several injuries, consistency and has often deferred to his teammates. With his role diminished, his declining scoring averages and ongoing injury issues, the once held belief that Gordon could be one of the best all-around shooting guards in the league has dissipated.

Now entering the final year of his current contract, the stakes are high for Gordon. He is still just 26 years old, and showed last season that, when healthy, he is capable of being a major contributor on the court. With a new, offensively-minded head coach in Alvin Gentry, an already dominant and improving teammate in Anthony Davis, the salary cap set to increase dramatically after next season and a somewhat shallow crop of to be free agents, Gordon is well-positioned to earn himself a big contract by playing well this season.

The big questions are whether or not Gordon is capable of playing at a top-tier level, and whether he can show that he can remain healthy for a full season.

On the first question, Gordon showed for the majority of last season that he can be an impact-player. Kyle Korver and Stephen Curry set the league on fire with historically great shooting seasons. However, the player with the second best three-point percentage last season was Gordon (44.8), which is surprising considering he was 81st in three-point percentage two seasons ago. In addition, Gordon was in the 93rd percentile in spot-up shooting last season, hitting 43.7 of his spot-up jumpers. That places Gordon ahead of other well-paid, knock-down shooters like Danny Green, James Harden, DeMarre Carroll, Kyrie Irving and Wesley Matthews.

Gordon’s improved shooting is, at least in part, a result of a slight tweak in his shooting mechanics. Last summer, Gordon added a sweep-and-sway motion to his shot; a motion that is supposed to help a player’s shoulders sway back, improving the arc of their shot. The small change seems to have paid off and it’s possible Gordon could keep improving since he was somewhat inconsistent incorporating the sweep-and-sway last season. With another offseason to work on his shot, it is possible Gordon could be an even better shooter next season.

This will only be possible if Gordon can maintain his health. As Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson said earlier this year, Gordon’s improved shooting is directly tied to his improving health.

“It’s his health,” Vinson said in March. “Just being healthy, it means that his body is in balance. His shooting mechanics are on balance. He’s able to move fluidly, get to a spot, get his feet set and get his balance. Then, having the strength and the power from his legs. That’s a huge part of shooting, particularly from long range. With how deep the three-point line is in the NBA, there is less room for error. You’ve really got to be on-balance, and have the leg strength to get the ball there, so that you’re not shooting the ball just with your upper body.

“What helps is he’s getting the reps up, because he’s healthy now,” Vinson added. “He’s more apt to be in the gym getting up extra shots, as opposed to being in the training room, trying to protect his body and prepare himself to be able to play. Now that he’s healthy, he can get out on the court early before shootaround, or get extra shots in after practice. He’s able to say, ‘OK, I feel good, I can get those extra shots up.’ His health has been huge.”

When healthy, Gordon is also a strong player off the dribble. While he is not a great ball-handler like Kyrie Irving, he is good enough to create his own offense by attacking the rim and handling the ball in pick-and-roll sets. Other knock-down shooting guards like Danny Green and Kyle Korver are generally unable to score the ball unless a teammate finds them for an open jumper. This separates Gordon from a lot of other wing-players and keeps him from being pegged strictly as a 3-and-D player.

In addition to his offensive game, Gordon is a strong athlete that is a tough-defensive player. While he is undersized at 6’4, Gordon is surprisingly strong and does a good job of defending opposing wing-players. Gordon is not a lock-down defender like Tony Allen or Danny Green, but he is solid. In fact, with the Clippers, Gordon was viewed as the team’s best wing-defender and often guarded the opposing team’s best scoring guard, or forward. His ability to play both ends of the court should help his cause when he becomes a free agent as teams place a lot of value in well-rounded players that are not liabilities on one end of the court.

Pelicans fans may want Gordon to take a significant pay cut to stay in New Orleans since he hasn’t lived up to his contract thus far, but this is very unlikely to happen considering the league’s financial landscape. With the cap expected to rise, some knock-down shooters earned some big contracts this offseason. Wesley Matthews, who is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, secured a four-year, $70 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Khris Middleton agreed to a five-year, $70 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. DeMarre Carroll signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Toronto Raptors. Danny Green locked in a four-year, $45 million deal with the San Antonio Spurs, though his contract is considered a bargain and he could have likely earned more on the open market.

Matthews is set to earn more than $17 million a season with a surgically repaired Achilles. Middleton will make more than $14 million a season despite the fact that he is more of a 3-and-D wing and struggles to score off the dribble. Carroll is set to earn $15 million a season despite being 29 years old and averaging just 7.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game for his career. This is simply the new NBA economy with the NBA’s new TV deal coming into effect after this upcoming season.

Assuming Gordon can play roughly 70 games or so, continue shooting the ball well from distance and continue his solid play on defense, he should be in line for a significant new contract next offseason. This is especially true when we consider that the list of notable free agent shooting guards after this season is limited to: Kobe Bryant (37), Jamal Crawford (35), Joe Johnson (34), Dwyane Wade (33), Courtney Lee (29), O.J. Mayo (27), Gerald Henderson (27), Dion Waiters (23) and Bradley Beal (22). Bryant, Crawford, Johnson and Wade are all in the tail end of their respective careers, Beal and Waiters will likely be restricted free agents and Mayo has failed to produce consistently, despite being relatively healthy throughout his career. Lee and Henderson, like Gordon, could likely secure sizable contracts, though neither has ever had the stature that Gordon held earlier in his career.

With the rising cap, more than half the league will suddenly be armed with free agent spending power after this season. However, Kevin Durant is arguably the only unrestricted free agent deserving of a max-deal, while the other best free agents will likely be restricted, which could deter teams from making serious offers. The likelihood is that there will be at least one team that is willing to take a chance on Gordon and offer him a sizable, long-term deal, especially if he puts together a solid season. However, if Gordon suffers through another injury-riddled season, teams may shy away from offering him the sort of long-term money that a player of his caliber may otherwise expect.

Considering this, there is no doubt that the stakes are high for Eric Gordon this upcoming season.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Advertisement




1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Today's Best NBA Reporting and Analysis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

Looking Toward The Draft: Power Forwards

Basketball Insiders continues their NBA Draft watch, this time with the power forwards.

David Yapkowitz

Published

on

We got some updated NBA draft news this week when the league announced that several key dates have been pushed back including the draft, the start of free agency and the beginning of the 2020-21 season.

The 2020 draft was originally scheduled for Oct. 16, but it will now likely occur sometime in November. Obviously, with the COVID-19 pandemic still wildly out of control in the United States, all of these potential deadlines are fluid and subject to change.

With that said, we’re continuing our position by position breakdown here at Basketball Insiders of some of the top 2020 draft prospects. We looked at the point guards and shooting guards last week, and this week we’re covering the small forwards and power forwards.

The power forward crop, like the draft overall, doesn’t appear to be as strong as recent years, that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential contributors and high-level NBA players available, as well as one who might just turn out to be a star-caliber player.

Onyeka Okongwu, USC – 19 years old

Okongwu is the player who just might develop into a star on some level. He was actually underrated in high school and was snubbed for a McDonald’s All-American selection his senior year. He established himself early on at USC as the team’s best player as a freshman and now appears to have turned some heads.

He’s been mentioned as a lottery pick and in some mock drafts, he’s top 4-5. He possesses a great all-around skill-set; he can score in the post, he can put the ball on the floor and attack and he can shoot. But perhaps his biggest attribute is his versatility on the defensive end. He’s got quick feet and mobility and can guard multiple positions.

Okongwu might actually play center in the NBA, especially in small-ball lineups, but he’s mostly played power forward and so he’ll probably see time there in the league. His skill-set fits perfectly with today’s game.

Obi Toppin, Dayton – 22 years old

Toppin is one of the older players in the draft, and in recent history, players that age tend to slip on draft boards. In Toppin’s case, it looks like the reverse might actually be true. He’s been projected as a lottery pick, and even going in the top 3.

He’s an incredibly athletic player who thrives in the open court. He looks like he’ll do well in an up-tempo offensive system that has capable playmakers who can find him in transition. He’s extremely active around the rim and he can finish strong. A decent shooter too, something he’ll need at the next level.

Toppin has the physical tools to be an effective defensive player, but that’s where the questions marks on him have been. In the NBA, he’s likely going to have to play and guard multiple positions. Whether or not he can adapt to that likely will answer the question as to what his ceiling can be.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis – 20 years old

Achiuwa is another intriguing prospect. this writer actually got to watch him play in person while he was in high school and he was very impressive. He looked like a man among boys. He’s projected to be a late lottery pick.

He has an NBA-ready body and he’s got some toughness around the rim and in the paint. He was a double-double threat during his one season at Memphis and his knack for rebounding is something that should translate to the NBA. He’s a very good defender too, in particular, as a rim protector. He’s very quick and has the ability to guard multiple positions.

One of the main knocks on Achiuwa is his shooting ability. He didn’t shoot that well in college and power forwards being able to space the floor is almost a requirement in today’s NBA game. It’s something he can certainly work on and improve on though.

Honorable Mentions:
Paul Reed, DePaul – 21 years old
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State – 21 years old
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga – 22 years old

Continue Reading

NBA

Looking Toward the Draft: Small Forwards

Basketball Insiders’ examination of the 2020 draft class continues with a look at the small forwards.

Drew Maresca

Published

on

It was announced on Wednesday that the NBA Draft would be delayed from Oct. 16 to Nov. 18. The rationale is that the extra month gives the league and its players association more time to negotiate changes to the CBA. It also grants teams additional time to procure information on prospects and allows the NBA to establish regional virtual combines. But nothing is set in stone.

Still, draft prep must continue. This year’s draft class has more question marks than usual – which was complicated by the cancellation of the NCAA tournament (along with the NIT and a number of conference tournaments). There are incredibly skilled offensive players with limited offensive upside and jaw-droppingly talented defenders with incomplete offensive packages. But if (recent) history serves as a guide, there will be a few guys who make an immediate impact – and some of them very well could be small forwards.

The small forward position is key for the modern NBA. Want proof? Survey the league and you’ll find that most – if not all – contenders have an elite small forward – Milwaukee, Los Angeles (both), Boston, Miami, Toronto.

But the list of can’t miss small forward prospects feels smaller than usual. Scanning the numerous legitimate mock drafts (including our own by Steve Kyler), it becomes apparent that we lack a consensus on which small forwards will be selected (and in what order) after the top 3 or 4. Can any of them grow into a star? Maybe. Maybe not. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s identify what the top few bring to the table.

Deni Avdija, Israel – 19 years old

Avdija is a relatively well-rounded prospect who’s played professionally since he was 16. He boasts good height (6-foot-9) and uses it effectively to shoot over and pass around opposing defenses. Further, Avdija is an exceptional playmaker and he’s incredibly confident, enabling him to take chances many players would be apprehensive trying. Avdija is a high-IQ player. And what’s more, he’s a surprisingly strong defender. His height and above-average athleticism allow him to block shots, and he’s more physical than you’d expect him to be.

But there are drawbacks to Avdija, too. His main issue is around shooting. Avdija shot only 28% in the EuroLeague last season, and he shot only 60% from the free-throw line. Further, while he’s a decent athlete, he’ll struggle to secure a role in the NBA. He’s going to need to add speed to stay with modern wings, and he’ll also have to bulk up to bang with power forwards.

Still, Avdija’s upside is alluring. He’s only 19, and his smarts, confidence and grittiness should provide him cover for much of his rookie season. Avdija should be the first small forward off of the board.

Isaac Okoro, Auburn – 19 years old

Avdija might be the flashier name currently, but Okoro will give him a run for his money in terms of which small forward is first off the board. Okoro is built like a traditional NBA wing; he’s 6-foot-6 with good strength packed in his muscular frame (215 lbs). Okoro finishes well around the rim and he converts well through contact. He’s an exceptional athlete who excels catching the ball on the move. Like Avdija, Okoro has the poise and composure of a more experienced player. Also, like Avdija, Okoro looked the part of a high IQ player in his lone season at Auburn.

And while all that is great, the main allure of Okoro is his defense. He’s a fairly advanced defender given his age, and his athleticism and timing make him an effective weak side help defender.

While Okoro’s raw abilities are exquisite, his refined offensive skills leave something to be desired. Okoro shot 28 percent on three-point field goals and he struggled from the free-throw line (67.2 percent). His mid-range jump shot also needs work, and he struggles in isolation situations.

If Okoro can hone his offensive game, he could grow into an All-Star. He has the ability to guard multiple positions, and his strength and athleticism give him a leg up on most prospects. But even if he doesn’t become an All-Star, he possesses a fairly high floor given his defensive abilities — and the guy definitely fills the state sheet (12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, .9 steals and .9 blocks). He has lockdown defender potential and he’ll put his stamp on the game beginning on night one.

Devin Vassell, Florida State – 20 years old

Vassell played two seasons at Florida State, but he came into his own in his Sophomore season. He averaged 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot a more than respectable 41.5% on three-point attempts, and he demonstrated a strong stroke from the free-throw line (73.8 percent) and on two-point field goal attempts (53.2).

Vassell is an extremely athletic leaper, who can rise up for a highlight dunk and sprint down the floor with ease. He has good body control and demonstrated a strong mid-range game, especially his step-back jump shot. But Vassell must generate more free throws through decisive moves to the hoop, which would be bolstered by a more muscular frame. Additionally, he must improve his ball-handling to get more from isolations.

Vassell will have an adjustment period in terms of scoring the ball at the next level. Fortunately, his defense and shooting should get him by. If he can bulk up and improve his handling, Vassell could grow into a serious player.

Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt – 20 years old

Nesmith probably has a lower floor than any of the other top small forward prospects given that he’ll be 21 by the draft. Still, he looked quite good in his Junior year, averaging 23 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game on a scorching 52.2 percent shooting from deep. Nesmith is an incredibly gifted shooter who has impressive range. His ability to catch-and-shoot and create space with fakes makes him a promising prospect – for the right team.

Nesmith is a high IQ player who uses his smarts on the defensive end. He’s also quite strong, can get buckets in the open floor and demonstrates above average ball-handling skills, as long as he’s not taking the ball to the hoop.

But there are inherent limitations in Nesmith’s game. He’s doesn’t create for his teammates too effectively and he turns the ball over more frequently than one would like with. Further, Nesmith is plagued by robotic movements that limit his athleticism. His ball-handling breaks down when taking the ball to the rack – something he’ll certainly have to work on in the NBA if he wants to be a versatile scoring threat against the bigger and stronger competition.

Still, Nesmith’s positives give him an excellent chance at being selected in the first round. His range alone will intrigue teams in need of a shooter.

Honorable Mentions:

Saddiq Bey, Villanova – 21 years old

Jaden McDaniels, Washington – 19 years old

Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State – 20 years old

With the uncertainty around small forward prospects, expect to see a revolving door of names enter the discussion after the first four wing prospects are off the board prior to Nov. 16 – assuming the draft is held then. But regardless of how you have them ranked, all of the aforementioned prospects have question marks. But all have had far more time to improve than they would have in years’ past. Let’s hope that shows come next season.

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA Daily: Opposite Plotlines for Today’s Matchups

With the two matchups going on today, Matt John examines the two teams who could be in the most trouble because of one of their individual stars for opposite reasons.

Matt John

Published

on

The second round of the NBA playoffs was hyped up to be one of the most entertaining we’ve had in years. So far, they haven’t fallen short of expectations. We knew that Houston and Los Angeles’ battle of opposite philosophies would make for some twists and turns. We knew that Boston and Toronto would duke it out in an Atlantic Division showdown. We knew that Miami would push Milwaukee to new heights. We didn’t really know if the Nuggets would give the Clippers a good series, but the fact that they have so far has made an intense postseason all the more gripping.

Anyway, today we’re getting two games from two series in completely opposite places. The Lakers and the Rockets will face off for the series lead, while the HEAT will try to finish off the Bucks once and for all. Below, we’re going to focus on two teams who have an individual star that either may be more flawed than we thought or one that may not be as flawed as we thought.

Bucks vs. HEAT: Giannis is great and all, but…

We all pretty much knew this was going to be a good series. We did not expect this.

The buzz surrounding Bucks v. HEAT was that Miami was going to make Milwaukee earn every win they got in this series. If that was the plan, then Miami has failed miserably, because until Khris Middleton went supernova on them on Sunday, Milwaukee had come up terribly short.

Let’s first give Miami the credit that they are due and more. With Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler alone, Miami was going to be a tough matchup for Milwaukee – but to see the Bucks all but roll over in this series is an unpleasant sight. Acquiring Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala has paid huge dividends and it’s showing. There are other factors involved, but Miami’s defensive efforts have limited Giannis to 21.8 points a game and that’s played a role in the HEAT being in the driver’s seat of this series.

Speaking of Giannis Antetokounmpo, this series has not been a good look for the Defensive Player of the Year. Especially since it looks like his second consecutive MVP (presumably) is right around the corner. So, to see both him and Milwaukee, once an unstoppable force without an immovable object in sight, get stopped by a sturdy but not immovable squad is saddening.

Nearly a year ago, Basketball Insiders compared these current Bucks to the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic from the late-2000’s/early 2010’s. To oversimplify things, both were contenders led by a superstar with a rare physique that made them tough to stop. To put the superstar in the best position, they surrounded them with playmakers and three-point shooters.

While the teams’ roster constructions weren’t exactly the same, their strengths as a team certainly were. Now we’re seeing the Bucks’ flaws just as we did the Magic 10 years ago. If you have the personnel to make the lone superstar uncomfortable, the team doesn’t function as well.

Giannis is near impossible to stop, but the one major flaw is that if you take away his ability to drive and force him into a jumper, he loses his rhythm. Even if his shot is on – never a guarantee – his opponents will let him beat them that way until he makes them pay. Hardly any team can pick on this, but the HEAT are one of them, and now they’re one win away from their first Eastern Conference Finals since LeBron James took his talents out of South Beach.

This ultimately is what puts Antetokounmpo below the likes of LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard for now. Those guys are rare physical specimens like him, but their elite games don’t revolve entirely around their natural gifts as he does or Dwight did. At 25 years old, there’s plenty of time for him to change that and, for all we know, he will, but to see him struggle at a time when the conference was supposed to run through him has ignited tons of questions.

Milwaukee’s technically not out yet, but they’ve shown their mortality against Miami. If this really is it for them, then they’ve got to find a quick fix for this problem because if they don’t, then the unspeakable may happen.

Lakers vs. Rockets: Westbrook has been bad and all but…

Shaking off the rust and recovering from a balky knee would be tough for anyone. For Russell Westbrook, it’s killing his productivity and, in turn, the Rockets’ playoff chances. He’s averaging 15.6 points on 39/16/47 splits with a most recent 10-point, 4-of-15 effort from the field which included seven turnovers and air balling wide-open threes sticking out like a sore thumb.

It also doesn’t help that he’s playing the Lakers of all teams. When Westbrook has been in, the Lakers have taken advantage of his shortcomings offensively and it shows both on the court and the stat line.

Most of Westbrook’s damage is hurting Houston on the offensive end. With the All-Star guard in the game, Houston is minus-13.7 with him on the court, the worst offensive rating on the team. The 12 turnovers he’s coughed up in this series probably have something to do with that.

With Westbrook’s struggles and his predecessor Chris Paul coming off of his best individual season since 2016, this, of course, has led to many second-guessing the swap last summer. Or let’s rephrase that: People have been second-guessing that trade since the moment it was announced and, in light of recent events, they’re piling on now more than ever.

Maybe they’re right. Even after playing in the NBA for over a decade now, Westbrook still hasn’t proven that he can control himself enough to reach his potential as a team player. We’ve seen glimpses. On the other hand, Paul showed that he can still pick apart defenses while holding his own on that end.

But replacing Paul with Westbrook was Harden’s idea. He didn’t want to play with Paul anymore and chose to play with one of his closest friends. You may think that the better fit is what’s best for the team, but we’ve seen the damage that can happen when your team’s best players have friction with one another. It hurt Utah this season. It hurt Boston last season. It destroyed the Lakers back in 2013. There’s no telling what it could have done to Houston this season.

Besides, we know that as bad as Westbrook has been, he’s capable of being better. Not a knockdown shooter, not even an efficient scorer, but he has done better in the past when the focus was on him. The more days he takes to shake off the rust from his knee, the more optimistic the Rockets ought to be.

The Rockets have to take the glass-half-full on this one because they don’t really have a choice otherwise.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Online Betting Site Betway
Advertisement
American Casino Guide
NJ Casino
NJ Casino

NBA Team Salaries

Advertisement

CloseUp360

Insiders On Twitter

NBA On Twitter

Trending Now