Debrief Discussions: New Orleans Pelicans lose Anderson and Gordon

Jan 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon (10) looks on during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Clippers won in overtime 114-111. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon (10) looks on during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Clippers won in overtime 114-111. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Pelicans have made some notable additions in the free agency period, but they have also watched some familiar faces walk out the door. Rory and Nathan hashed out their thoughts on the subject.

Rory Callais (@Rory_Callais): Whew. It has been a monumental NBA free agency weekend, but between the seismic Kevin Durant move and the recent New Orleans Pelicans signings, two important Pelicans-related moves may have gotten buried in most people’s Twitter feeds: Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon both went to the Houston Rockets in separate deals (four years/$80 million for Anderson and four years/$53 million for Gordon). A year ago both (well, at least Anderson) were considered “core” players, and now it appears the Pelicans did not even attempt to retain either one this offseason.

This development seems to have surprised exactly no one, and you wrote a great piece on what the Solomon Hill and E’Twaun Moore signings mean for the direction of the team. Do you think there was ever any room for Gordon and Anderson in those plans? Alvin Gentry was Phoenix’s coach when the Suns handed Gordon a max offer, so he was obviously high on the shooting guard at one point. Further, Ryan Anderson seems tailor-made for an Alvin Gentry offense. What went wrong with these two guys that got them on the outs with a coach that should have been able to capitalize on their strengths?

Nathan Heck (@NathanHeck22): Whew is right. To say that this free agency period has been a whirlwind would be like comparing the journey to the moon to the long trek to the neighborhood grocery store. Maybe it is because I was extremely low on Ryan Anderson before the season began (I had him as the sixth best player on the team in last year’s Pelicans Rank), but I didn’t feel either were really in the long term plans. I viewed the offseason effort to bulk Anderson up, in regards to muscle, was a last ditch effort to turn him into a player capable of doing something other than shooting. We know how that went.

In my mind, last season was clearly the proverbial “last chance” for that group of players, and Demps probably felt it was worth one last attempt with how much work went into assembling that core.

With that in mind, I don’t think there ever was a place for them on this team under Alvin Gentry. I disagree with the idea of their supposed fit within the scheme. During his time in Golden State, Gentry was a key part of the development of an offensive system built around players with multiple skillsets. If there is one thing Gordon and Anderson are not, they are certainly not versatile. Both guys can only play one position, cannot create for others and are not particularly deadly attacking the basket.

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Friendly reminder: Gordon was a much different player when Phoenix extended that offer sheet. He was, you know, good.

Rory: Valid points all around. I sometimes felt calling Anderson a “stretch four,” while technically true, was not the most accurate description. Anderson can shoot, but there are a lot of power forward duties he doesn’t do. He doesn’t defend in the paint/at all, he doesn’t rebound, and he barely posts up. By most estimations, Anderson is more of an oversized shooting guard.

As far as Gordon, yes; the years have not been kind to Eric “Mr. Glass” Gordon. In many ways, his issues are similar to Anderson’s. He doesn’t defend the perimeter/at all, and he’s far too delicate to drive to the basket or chase down loose balls or perform any of the “hussle” plays SG’s often do. So you are absolutely right in that both guys are one-dimensional.

In this crazy offseason, one thing I have noticed is that national pundits seem to malign every move the Pelicans make. I’d bet the Ringer’s offices are already drafting a list of dream destinations for Anthony Davis. How much of the negative perception of the New Orleans front office is tied to Anderson and Gordon? Anderson was considered a flat-out steal when we got him, and Dell Demps was thrust into an impossible situation when Phoenix slid over Gordon’s max offer sheet. The circumstances that led to both players leaving the team with no resistance (the league’s value of a player like Anderson dramatically changing and Gordon’s injury woes) are hardly Demps’ fault. Obviously winning fixes everything, but do you think the absence of Anderson and Gordon helps or hurts the perception of the team outside the immediate fanbase?

Nathan: Ditto on the Anderson point. If you flip back through my Twitter feed, you will find an awful lot of me complaining about Anderson’s complete lack of ability to do, well, really anything besides score. It eventually got to the point that I would give him an obnoxiously poor grade if he did not score at least 15 points in our post-game grades. My logic was simple: if he doesn’t score, he is providing nothing to the team.

I gave Eric Gordon the same treatment, but to a slightly lesser degree. Gordon was able to have some success driving the ball this season, and he was decent as a primary initiator. But yeah, it still was far from good.

Can we all just take a moment to recognize how bad the Ringer is? Their podcasts listen like a sports version of E! Entertainment News, and the opinions of the hosts are so obnoxiously biased that it simply is not enjoyable. It is definitely a far cry from Grantland. I digress.

At the time that he made them, both of those moves were intelligent decisions, and those were never the moves that I, personally, criticized Demps for making (I was less accepting of the Jrue Holiday trade and the Tyreke Evans move). Letting them walk for nothing is far from ideal, but it was the best option available to Demps. As far as national perception is concerned, the superficial analysis community (ESPN, the Ringer, etc.), I don’t believe it changes much. However, I think the Pelicans are the sneaky team that could become the darling of NBA Twitter this season, much like the 48 win Suns under Dragic and the Bucks during Antetokounmpo’s breakout season.

If anything, this team should be more fun than those Bucks were. Now that he is surrounded by long guys that can defend and shoot, Davis will have the freedom to do anything he darn well chooses. In an ironic sense, Demps is getting the team he first envisioned, just in a really convoluted way.

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Rory: I am a big Simmons fan, and while I do enjoy some Ringer articles, it is definitely a step down. I like some podcasts, but I can’t stomach Chris Ryan or Juliet Litman treating the NBA like it’s one big reality show.

Anyway, I am intrigued by the new team being the ideal version of what the old team should have been. A lot of people knock Demps for the “young veterans” plan, but I actually think the plan itself is fine; Demps just executed it with the wrong people. Letting Anderson and Gordon walk is a huge step towards rectifying that, especially considering the types of players that have been brought in.

I do find it interesting that Anderson and Gordon essentially left together and went to the same team. They are two sides of the same coin: two one-dimensional scorers who had wildly different fan perceptions. Anderson was a fan favorite in New Orleans, and the tragic circumstances of his time here actually endeared him to the fan base on a level that I think we won’t fully realize until we see him in a Rockets uniform.

Gordon, on the other hand….yeah. I’m sure other franchises have reviled players on their roster, but it will be difficult for any Pelican to match the fan disdain for Eric Gordon. He was the centerpiece of the team losing its beloved superstar in Chris Paul, and since coming here he has underperformed, taken “injury-prone” to a new level, and openly stated he doesn’t want to be here. We all wanted Gordon to come here and be The Man, but Mr. Glass just never could rise to the occasion.

I am curious how they will find into Mike D’Antoni’s system and alongside James Harden. I wonder how the Houston fan base will regard them. However, I’m not optimistic. Alvin Gentry was a disciple of D’Antoni, so I can’t imagine they will suddenly thrive in essentially the same system. Also, the fans of Houston have no emotional investment in wanting these guys to succeed outside of just wanting the Rockets to win games. When Anderson and Gordon inevitably underperform their salaries, I can’t see this going particularly well…

Nathan: I’m glad we stumbled upon this nugget. Perhaps a longform feature about how this current roster is what Demps longed for from the beginning would go over well (nudge, nudge).

Anderson’s personal tragedies definitely placed him firmly in the collective heart of the city, and I do believe his return to the Smoothie King Center will tear at quite a few heartstrings. I’m expecting a standing ovation, and I think Anderson, as a human being, has done more than enough to deserve our admiration. On the other hand, like you said, Gordon was hated by the fans. Hate is a strong word, but I believe it is accurate in this case.

There is no way he is not boo’d, right?

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As far as the Rockets are concerned, I love the moves…for the Pelicans. Pairing noted defensive juggernaut James Harden (I seriously watched that YouTube mixtape of his “defense” from two seasons ago at least 20 times) with the laughably defensively inept Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson should result in some fantastic highlight reels for the high-flying Pelicans.

Heck, I would love to watch a mixtape comprised solely of Davis obliterating the Rockets. Someone should get on that next offseason.

Rory: The world needs that tape. And yes, Gordon will absolutely be boo’ed. After a few rounds in the beer garden outside the arena, I’ll probably be the loudest one.

As for Houston, I really do think the Rockets giving up 115 points per game has to be on the table. If even one of Harden, Gordon, or Anderson is having an off shooting night (which is fairly often for Gordon and Anderson), then the Rockets are doomed.

Next: Pelicans should also tell Tyreke goodbye

In a way, Gordon going to a division rival fulfills the promise he brought with him in the Chris Paul trade; a slow climb back to contention on the back of promising young talent. It didn’t work out quite the way anyone thought, but after four seasons, Eric Gordon may finally deliver by making the Houston Rockets worse. While I will miss Anderson, Gordon proves the old “addition by subtraction” adage. For some people, the most meaningful contribution they can make to a group is leaving it.