Eric Gordon just might be the most frustrating player in the NBA. In theory, he’s an All-Star and a potential franchise player. In practice, he’s frequently injured and when he is healthy, he often produces below the level we might expect him to based on his considerable talents. He’s been with the New Orleans Pelicans for two seasons and in that time, he’s played just 51 games. If he can stay healthy, he could become one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, but at this point, his injury history is beginning to precede him. The Pelicans have put up with a lot from him these past two seasons, which begs the question: Do the Pelicans want to go forward with Gordon on their team?
He certainly has a ton of upside. In 2010-11, he averaged 22.3 points per game for the Los Angeles Clippers. At that point, he was one of the most buzzed about players in the league. We thought that Gordon and Blake Griffin would be the core of a talented Clippers team for years to come. Instead, he was dealt to the then-Hornets in the Chris Paul trade. At the time, Gordon was considered to be by far the best player the Hornets picked up in the deal. Unfortunately, injuries forced him to miss 57 out of 66 games in his first season with New Orleans. Without Gordon, the Hornets the sunk to the bottom of the standings, which earned them the No. 1 pick in the draft, which they used on Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. Theoretically, building around a core of Davis and Gordon could turn the Pelicans into contenders, but Gordon’s frequent injury history, along with his diminished production in the games he has played, make him one of the biggest question marks in the league.
Gordon played in 42 games for the Pelicans this past season and he averaged 17 points per game. Not a bad number by any means, but it was far down from the 22.3 he averaged just two years earlier. Perhaps more importantly, his shooting percentage took a huge nose dive, going from .450 to .402. In his first few seasons, Gordon looked like he might develop into an elite shooting guard on the level on Dwyane Wade; instead he’s regressed and looks more like Monta Ellis, a player who is more than capable of scoring, but does it at the cost of efficiency. It’s quite possible that Gordon’s slump was a mere aberration, possibly caused by his continued injury problems. Still, it has to give the Pelicans some pause going forward. Gordon is supposed to be one the key pieces of this franchise and after that giant contract he signed last summer, the Pelicans have to be concerned about getting their money’s worth from Gordon.
The Pelicans must have realized they had a problem last summer when he practically begged them to not match the offer made by the Phoenix Suns, stating he preferred to play in Phoenix. The Pelicans matched the offer anyway, hoping his talents would make up for his reluctance to play for them. So far, things have not worked the way they planned. This coming season will be a huge one for Gordon. Either he will prove once and for all that he is first-rate shooting guard and a key part of the Pelicans going forward, or he’ll run into more problems, causing more doubt among both the Pelicans and their fan base. In two years in New Orleans, Gordon has done little to endear himself to the city. This will be his chance to prove he is a worthy investment. If he continues to have issues, look for Pelicans fans to get tired of Gordon and look for the front office to try to deal him. Everyone knows how much potential Gordon has, but people can only be so patent. At some point, Gordon has to start delivering. This may be his last chance.