A little more than two years after acquiring him, and 18 months after matching a four-year, $58 million offer sheet from Phoenix, the Pelicans remain active in their pursuit of trading guard Eric Gordon, league sources told Sporting News this week. New Orleans has made contact with several teams about Gordon, even devising three-team scenarios in order to find him a new home.
The Pelicans first began seeking trade options for Gordon last summer, after acquiring point guard Jrue Holiday from Philadelphia on draft night and getting swingman Tyreke Evans in a sign-and-trade from Sacramento. There was some hope at that time that the Suns might remain interested in Gordon, but after Phoenix brought in Eric Bledsoe in a trade, that interest had dwindled.
The Pelicans are desperately seeking frontcourt help, particularly a center they can put next to blossoming star Anthony Davis. New Orleans sent Robin Lopez to Portland in the offseason as part of the deal that landed them Evans, but have not been able to replace him. For the last four games, coach Monty Williams has gone with Alexis Ajinca, signed from the French League last month, as his starting center.
Additionally, the Pelicans have been without power forward Ryan Anderson for the last three games, as he recovers from a herniated disc suffered in a head-to-head collision with Gerald Wallace last week. Even when healthy, though, Williams prefers to bring Anderson’s scoring punch off the bench.
New Orleans entered the season bent on earning a spot in the postseason, after missing the playoffs for three straight seasons since trading away star point guard Chris Paul, the deal that brought Gordon to the Pelicans in the first place. But the Pelicans have lost four of their last five to slip to 15-19, 11th in the West and four games out of a playoff berth.
The problem with dealing Gordon is that the Pelicans are unlikely to get fair value. In his first two seasons with New Orleans, he played just 51 of 148 possible games, dealing with a variety of injuries. Around the league, the belief was that Gordon was bitter with New Orleans management for having matched the offer from Phoenix.
Gordon has been healthy this year, and is averaging 15.6 points on 43.9 percent shooting, making 38.5 percent of his 3-pointers. But that production doesn’t match up with his contract, which calls for Gordon to make more than $14 million this year and $30 million over the next two years (he has a player option on the final year of the deal).
“He has been healthy and he has played better,” one league executive told Sporting News. “But he is a still a long way from living up to what you have to pay him. His contract is still the big reason they are not able to do anything with him at this point.”
The hope for the Pelicans this year was to play Gordon in a three-guard look with Holiday and Evans. Ideally, that lineup would have been effective and, at the same time, rebuilt Gordon’s value should the Pelicans decide to trade him. Partly out of necessity with the Anderson injury, Williams has been using that lineup more, but the lack of size (Gordon and Holiday are 6-3, and Evans is 6-6) hurts defensively.
The lineup that has those three on the floor with Davis and Anderson is easily the Pelicans’ best offensively, averaging 1.25 points per possession according to 82games.com, but is its second-worst lineup defensively (1.20 points per possession).
“Those three guys are sometimes undersized with that group,” Williams said. “For us, that poses problems with other teams, especially off the dribble.”
Still, Gordon says he is happy now in New Orleans and would like a chance to let the three-guard look develop.
“We know that is a dynamic group,” Gordon told Sporting News, “because you’ve got guys who can go to the basket at will at any time, and you have (Davis) trailing. It is a dynamic guard group for anybody to stop. … We use it every now and then, but we are still building chemistry with each other when we are all out on the court at the same time. I would like to see it out there a lot more. I think it is better that way.”
But, flailing in the standings, eager to make the playoffs and well-stocked with guard depth, the Pelicans apparently have little choice but to continue to explore trade options for Gordon.
Please no, this seems like the kind of move MJ / Cho seem desperate to make to compete for a playoff spot this season.