Eric Gordon played all of nine games in a contract year with the New Orleans Hornets. What he did in that time was nice. However, Hornets management hasn’t seen enough of him to go all out to keep him. Even if the Hornets factor in Gordon’s career record, they shouldn’t present their top free agent with a max contract offer.
Gordon didn’t play enough this season for the Hornets to have a full evaluation of him. He played two games in December, and then went down for an extended period of time with a bone bruise in his knee. He missed three weeks, and then another three weeks.
Then, the Hornets decided to have his knee scoped. After that, Gordon was forced to miss another six weeks.
In a NOLA.com mailbag video in February, John DeShazier of the Times-Picayune called out Hornets coaches and front office members for not performing surgery on Gordon earlier.
“I don't know if he was dragging his feet because he didn't want to have surgery or if it was a misdiagnosis, but somebody messed up,” DeShazier said.
DeShazier later said that the deal sending Chris Paul to the Clippers for Gordon, Chris Kaman and Al-Farouq Aminu was basically a trade of Paul for Kaman due to Gordon’s injury and Aminu’s lack of playing time.
His subsequent statement that Gordon could very well sign elsewhere after hardly playing for the Hornets this season seemed then and still seems prophetic.
To a large degree, the Hornets shot themselves in the foot by not acting quickly on Gordon’s injury. Now, they have a player who could be expensive and hasn’t given them a full on-court profile.
If the Hornets had had arthroscopic knee surgery done on Gordon in early- to mid-January instead of February, then they would have been able to play him for 25 to 35 games. That would have given the Hornets a chance to better evaluate Gordon.
Since they don’t have a good profile of Gordon playing for them, the Hornets have no reason to give him a maximum contract. Bob Finnan of the News-Herald affirmed in a May 19 column that Gordon's knee injuries render a maximum contract for him a bad deal.
A team can’t reward a player with a large amount of money after he missed an extended period of time due to injury. That’d be fiscally irresponsible.
Additionally, if the Hornets were to consider Gordon’s first three years in the NBA as a basis for giving him a maximum contract, it still wouldn’t be plausible. Gordon did a nice job in his three years with the Clippers. He steadily improved his game. In his third season, the Indiana product averaged 22.3 points per game.
That was impressive, but fans must remember that he scored 22.3 per game for a poor Clippers team. Scoring in bunches doesn’t come out the same for a bad team as it does for a good team. Besides Gordon and Kaman, the Clippers didn’t have much in the way of scoring options. One can’t guess how much Gordon would have scored on a good team that season.
Thus, one must take that scoring figure with a skeptical view.
Indeed, Gordon is a fine scorer. He can command the ball and create for himself. At 45.2 percent for his career, Gordon hits shots at a good rate.
However, he’s not a showstopper. He doesn’t take over games or carry his team to the next level. He hasn’t shown a capability to transform his teammates into dynamic playmakers
Some good but not spectacular players received maximum contracts last offseason. Marc Gasol received one from the Memphis Grizzlies. He returned the favor by having a hot first half, earning an All-Star nod.
Then, he tapered off in the second half of the season and played poorly in the first four games of the first-round series against the Clippers before helping push the series to the limit.
Sometimes, market forces lead to strange free-agent deals. Hopefully, such deals don’t happen in this case. With a large amount of cap space, the Hornets could give Gordon a maximum contract, but they shouldn’t since he hasn’t shown that he deserves it and he wasn’t healthy for much of the season.
If the Hornets offer Gordon $9 million to $12 million, that’s fine. But a maximum contract for the sake of retaining Gordon would be unwise.