The Pelican Debrief season reviews have been flowing for the past 10 days with the large group of role players that played significant minutes for the Pelican’s in 2013-2014. In case you missed them they have been: Luke Babbitt, Darius Miller, Jeff Withey, Jason Smith, Alexis Ajinca, Greg Stiemsma, Austin Rivers, Anthony Morrow and Brian Roberts and Al-Farouq Aminu. Over the weekend, we started a look at what the projects as the Pelicans’ core going forward with a season review of Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday. That continued Monday with a look at Tyreke Evans. Today we hit probably the biggest disappointment of the season, Eric Gordon.
Stats: 64 games (64 starts). 15.4 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.6 rpg, 1.2 spg, 0.2 bpg
Highlight: January 1 against the Rockets Gordon had one of those games that make people realize why he was offered a max contract in the first place. Gordon put up 35 points on 11/17 shooting and added three rebounds and six assists for good measure.
The Good: 39% from three. Gordon was one of the few true floor spacers that the Pelicans had this season, shooting an impressive 39.1 percent from behind the arc on four attempts per game. That 39 percent ranked behind only Ryan Anderson and Anthony Morrow.
The Bad: 64 games played. This marked the fifth straight season that Gordon failed to play in at least 70 games, a bad sign for a guy that is paid a lot of money. The 64 games were the most he played since 78 in his rookie year way back in 2008-2009, but that says more about the past four seasons than it does about this one.
The Ugly: 15.4 points per game. While averaging 15 points per game isn’t easy this is more about what it represents than the number itself. The number was the lowest of Gordon’s career, which combined with the games missed, just isn’t good. Gordon clearly isn’t the player the Pelicans paid for when they matched the max offer that Gordon got from the Phoenix Suns a few summers ago.
2013-2014 was just another year where Eric Gordon just didn’t live up to the potential everyone saw in him years ago, and another step towards the Pelicans eventually just moving on from him.
The raw numbers for Gordon weren’t terrible. 15 points, three assists and two rebounds per game as a shooting guard is actually a pretty productive player. Add in the 39 percent from three for a team that desperately needed floor spacing and it seems hard to see how Gordon would be a negative.
The problem is that Gordon was in fact a net negative this season for the Pelicans. Offensively New Orleans was 1.1 points per 100 possessions worse with Gordon on the floor than they were with him off the floor. The number isn’t huge, essentially just one basket per 100 possessions. What it says though is that at the very least there is no difference in Eric Gordon and Anthony Morrow, who played 40 percent of his minutes at shooting guard this season. And in all reality there really isn’t. Morrow actually shot better than Gordon from 0-3, 3-10, and 10-16 feet this season as well as from beyond the arc. The biggest difference between the two was in usage, as Gordon is much more able to create his own shot, even if it isn’t as successful at going it.
Defensively though Gordon was an absolute disaster. The Pelicans were 6.5 points per 100 possessions better with him on the bench defensively. In fact when Gordon was on the floor the Pelicans gave up 110.4 points per 100 possessions which would have been the worst defensive efficiency in the league. Meanwhile when he sat the Pelicans defensive efficiency improved to just 103.9 points per 100 possessions, which would have ranked 14th in the league. Gordon was never the biggest player so he always had trouble defending bigger shooting guards but with his injuries sapping his athleticism the problems got even worse.
All-in-all the 2013-2014 season was a disaster not just for Eric Gordon but for the entire Pelicans’ organization in regards to their hopes for them. Instead of being the guy that would be the dynamic second option next to Anthony Davis for years to come like they had hoped when the signed him the season just helped prove that long-term the team will be better off without Gordon and his massive contract. There is a place for him in the league, but it has become pretty clear that place isn’t in New Orleans.