Just a few years ago, Eric Gordon was one of the most exciting young players in the NBA. He was averaging more than 20points a game for the Los Angeles Clippers and it felt like he had nowhere to go but up. Since then, however, nearly everything has gone wrong for the New Orleans Pelicans guard. He missed loads of time due to injury and when he’s been healthy, his numbers have been decent, but nothing like what we saw during the first two seasons. This begs the question: does Eric Gordon still have the potential to become an All-Star caliber player or are the Pelicans stuck with the solid-but-unspectacular shooing guard they have in their lineup today?
While Gordon is still relatively young, it’s worth noting, he’s in his sixth year in the league. Usually, when players make the leap from “pretty good” to “one of the best in the league,” they’ve already done it by now Admittedly, Gordon has played fewer games than most six-year vets, but his current stagnation isn’t encouraging. Again, Gordon has hardly been terrible, it’s just that he hasn’t been particularly inspiring either. After his early years made us wonder if he could reach the levels of say, James Harden, or Dwyane Wade, he’s regressed considerably, and now looks more in the range of O.J. Mayo or J.R. Smith. Both of whom are fine players, but their flaws are impossible to ignore, and so are Gordon’s.
If you look at Gordon’s career numbers, you’ll notice one disturbing trend: a stark decline in his shooting since the beginning of the 2012-13 season. Before that, Gordon had never shot worse than .449 in any year. Last year, he shot .402, and so far this year, he’s shooting .416. These numbers put him in the company of the game’s more notorious chuckers, like Brandon Jennings or Jordan Crawford (before his revival in Dallas, Monta Ellis would have been here, too). Last year, this problem could have been written off as a mere symptom of Gordon returning to basketball after missing so much time due to injury. This year, however, it seems like a more serious problem; one that may not get better with time. If Gordon is to be a key piece of this Pelicans team, and lead the offense while Anthony Davis recuperates, more of shots are going to need to start falling.
Gordon’s recent shooting woes might not be as much of a problem if he was a better contributor on the defensive end, but that’s never been his strongsuit. Last year, Gordon’s defensive rating was a way-too-high 112. This year, it’s gone down to a more reasonable 108, but the fact remains, Gordon isn’t exactly a beast on the perimeter. So, what you’re left with is an admittedly solid scorer who tends to get his points in the least efficient manner possible, and isn’t particularly scary on the defensive. Now, having a guy like this on your team isn’t the worst thing in the world, but when you give him a max contract, and ask him to be one of the key pieces on your team going forward, that’s a little harder to swallow.
Taking everything we know about Gordon into consideration, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that he’ll never be the player he once was. In 2010-11, he looked like a breakout star, averaging 21.3 a game, and hitting .450 from the field Since then, however, everything has worked against him, and we find ourselves with a player who looks more and more like a shell of his former self. If Gordon can somehow get his old form back, the Pelicans could be an extremely frightening team. but after everything we’ve seen over the past few years, pelicans fans probably shouldn’t hold their breath.