Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders reported Tuesday:
Sources say the New Orleans Pelicans are making most of their roster available in trade talks, including Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, etc.
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 2, 2014
If seems as if the Pelicans are particularly interested in getting out from under Gordon’s nearly $15 million due in 2014-15 and his more than $15.5 player option for 2015-16.
And whose fault is it that the Pelicans are trapped under such an onerous deal? That would be the same guy who is now trying to undo that mistake—general manager Dell Demps.
In July 2012, Gordon signed a four-year, nearly $58.4 million offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns as a restricted free agent.
That was after Gordon’s first injury-shortened season in New Orleans, when he played in just two games after the lockout ended before he was shut down for three months with a knee injury.
Complications from the same knee rubbed Gordon out of 40 games in 2012-13 and 18 more last season.
In three seasons in the Big Easy, Gordon has played in just 115 of a possible 230 games—exactly half.
And the returns are diminishing rapidly.
Gordon was acquired while the then-Hornets were under NBA ownership, shortly after commissioner David Stern nixed a trade of franchise player Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers for “basketball reasons.”
Paul was then dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers, along with two 2015 second-round draft picks, in exchange for Gordon—the key piece of the deal coming back to the Hornets—Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman and the 2012 first-round pick that was later wasted used on Austin Rivers.
Gordon, despite having injury problems in L.A., too, was considered an up-and-coming star at the time the trade was made in December 2011.
He was coming off a season during which he averaged a career-high 22.3 points per game for the Clips, shooting .450/.364/.825 and also averaging 4.4 assists and 1.3 steals in 37.7 minutes per game.
But, in an old storytelling technique known as foreshadowing, Gordon had missed 26 games in 2010-11 after sitting out 20 the previous season.
The closest Gordon has had to a full season was the 78 games he played as a rookie in 2008-09.
After the nine-game season of 2011-12, Gordon wanted out of New Orleans and signed a huge deal to take his talents to the Valley of the Sun.
Demps, who saw Gordon as a centerpiece for the rebuilding of the franchise, matched the offer.
And it’s been disastrous.
After averaging 20.6 points per game on .450/.250/.754 shooting in his nine games in 2011-12, Gordon played 42 games in 2012-13 and averaged 17 points a night on a .402/.325/.842 slash line.
Last season, in 64 games, Gordon had his playing time increase from 30.1 minutes a game to 32.1, but saw his scoring drop to 15.4 points per game, even as some of his shooting touch returned (.436/.391/.785).
The problem with trying to move Gordon is finding a taker who wants to be on the hook for what will likely be $30 million-plus for two years for a player who averages less than 52 games per season.
I mean, he’s not Amar’e Stoudemire, but that is one bad contract to try to move.
Of course, Demps could have prevented all of this two years ago, by simply telling the Phoenix Suns, “Go on, then.”
Instead, Demps tried to make a situation work with a player who didn’t want to be in New Orleans getting paid like the face of the franchise.
Was it hubris? To a degree, but there’s not a personnel man or coach in the NBA that doesn’t look at a talented player and think, “it might not have worked anywhere else, but by God, I can make it work.”
Demps has paid a steep price for his hubris. And in order to get out from under it, he’s going to have to pay even more, this time in the form of assets present and future for a franchise that has battled to become relevant again since the Paul trade.