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Why Eric Gordon's Knee Injury Will Prevent Anthony Davis Becoming a Rookie Star

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Why Eric Gordon's Knee Injury Will Prevent Anthony Davis Becoming a Rookie Star
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

There's always next year.

A large part of Anthony Davis' ability to become an immediate star is predicated on Eric Gordon's knee.

Which is anything but good news.

Though the supposed star guard missed all of training camp courtesy of a sore right knee, New Orleans Hornets head coach Monty Williams remained hopeful that he would be able to make it back in time to see some preseason action.

Now, however, according to John Reid of The Times-Picayune, there is a strong possibility Gordon will be forced to sit out the rest of the preseason:

But Williams said Sunday that Gordon could miss the final three preseason games because he is not in appropriate conditioning due to the missed time caused by his sore knee. Williams said there's also a chance power forward Jason Smith could miss the remainder of the preseason after injuring his shoulder in a practice last week. Gordon has missed all five preseason games, while Smith has played in only the preseason opener against the Orlando Magic.

This should come as no surprise. Gordon has hardly been the poster-boy for durability over the past two seasons. Since 2010-11, of a possible 146 regular season bouts, the combo guard has appeared in just 65—less than half.

But while it comes as no surprise, the news is no less detrimental to New Orleans' current dynamic. And no one is more affected by Gordon's inconsistent health bill than the rookie Davis. 

As a pillar-in-the-making, there are few things more important than rotational stability. Adjusting to the pace and heightened level of talent the NBA has to offer will be difficult enough for Davis, and Gordon's absence at a time when the two should be developing a rapport is nothing short of a developmental hindrance.

And it's a hindrance, a roadblock that will ultimately cost Davis his opportunity to distinguish himself to the best of his versatile ability.

A look at how Gordon carves up defenses.

Without Gordon, the Hornets are void of a proven scorer. With him, the New Orleans had a "star" who was good for 20-plus points per contest, someone who would draw the defenses away from Davis.

Now, though? Davis is left with Ryan Anderson, a prolific scorer, but more of a spot-up shooter, who will only be as effective as the amount of double-teams Davis draws.

Which is actually good news for Anderson because according to Reid, opposing defenses are already placing an emphasis on containing Davis offensively:

Starting when the Hornets open against the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 31, Davis will see more teams play him physical in an attempt to force him out of the post. That’s what Atlanta did last week, when Hawks Coach Larry Drew had veteran Josh Smith play Davis straight up early in the game, and he banged into him repeatedly.

Drew also switched up his defensive coverages and had center Al Horford apply the same physical play against Davis.

Regardless of how well Davis has faired during the preseason—15.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks on 50 percent shooting from the field—it's only going to get tougher from here on out. 

Without Gordon, Davis runs the risk of over utilizing the perimeter.

As lethal as Davis is, he needs help on offense. Those 15-20 foot jump shots may continue to fall if he's open, but he won't always be left open, nor will he always be able to attack the rim.

More importantly, though, he shouldn't have to. His versatility should not be taken for granted. Just because he can hit the outside shot, doesn't mean that's where his offensive sets should primarily begin.

And that's why he needs Gordon.

As career 37 percent three-point shooter, Gordon helps stretch the defenses when he sets up shop on the perimeter. And as a savvy ball-handler who doesn't shy away from attacking the rim, he also draws defenses in each time he penetrates.

Each of those aspects of Gordon's game is important to Davis' immediate development, because they'll lead to increased scoring opportunities for him, which in turn help him establish his confidence and identity as a player much easier.

Without it, though, the pressures lies solely upon his shoulders. Without that self-sufficient, defense-drawing outside presence, Davis runs the risk of overusing his abilities as a shooter and under-developing his post game.

And while Austin Rivers can do much of what Gordon can, he's learning the ropes as a facilitator and doesn't command nearly as much respect as Gordon does.

Which again is bad news for Davis. 

He will already be tasked with leading the defensive charge, he shouldn't be asked to carry an immensely heavy offensive burden as well. Not as a rookie.

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No one's saying he can't, because maybe he can. But he's going to struggle.

Even if Gordon is ready for opening night, he and Davis will go in cold, having not played a minute of an official game together.

That means Davis will not only be tasked with the run-of-the-mill challenges that face every rookie, but also with developing some level of in-game chemistry with Gordon in between practices and the guard's stints on the shelf.

This by no means will diminish Davis' potential ceiling, but it does impede his ability to reach it as swiftly and seamlessly as possible.

Because in a healthy Gordon, he has a sidekick, someone who he can play a two-man game with and someone who takes a majority of the offensive pressure off his shoulders.

The only problem is he doesn't have a healthy Gordon.

Which puts immediate stardom just out of his reach.

 

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