Anthony Davis needs Eric Gordon.
And that's a problem, because as of right now, he doesn't have him. Even worse, he doesn't know when he's going to have him.
According to New Orleans' CBS affiliate WWL-TV Sports, New Orleans Hornets head coach Monty Williams has confirmed what many of us have suspected all along—that Gordon will be sidelined indefinitely as he continues to battle back from the arthroscopic surgery he had on his right knee last season.
Monty Williams says Eric Gordon is out indefinitely.— WWL-TV Sports (@wwltvsports) October 31, 2012
Obviously, this removes the Hornets' first offensive option from the equation right now. More importantly, though, it places an additional burden upon the rookie Davis' shoulders.
As versatile, talented and NBA-ready as Davis may be, the pace at which he develops offensively largely depends upon Gordon's presence and upon his ability to remain healthy.
In Gordon, New Orleans has a lethal scorer who can put points on the board from anywhere on the floor. And in doing so, he stretches defenses, thereby allowing Davis more opportunities to operate in the low post against man-to-man defensive sets.
Without him, though, Davis will face more double-teams and subsequently be forced to defer to teammates like Ryan Anderson and Austin Rivers, or force his offense down low, a tactic that barely works for Kobe Bryant, let alone a neophyte with raw scoring abilities.
Speaking of Rivers—who re-aggravated his sprained right ankle in the the team's preseason finale—he is still learning the ropes at point guard.
At Duke, the son of Doc Rivers was a volume shooter, but now, with the Hornets, he is being tasked with running an entire offense, being asked to assume the role of a primary facilitator, not a scorer.
And as we saw in the preseason, where Rivers did a great job protecting the ball but not creating plays for his teammates, it's going to take some time for the rookie to become acclimated to his new digs.
That makes Gordon—and his career 3.3 assists per game—New Orleans' most accomplished and proven passer.
Why is that important?
Because early on, Davis is going to need someone to jump-start his offense, to draw defenses out and feed him the ball where he is most comfortable and likely to score.
Gordon, in all of his scoring and ball-handling glory, can do just that. Rivers can't. Not yet, anyway.
Rivers won't command the same type of respect Gordon does on the perimeter. So not only is he the inferior passer, but he won't stretch the defenses in the same way, either.
This will force Davis to create his own offense far more frequently than he should, by receiving the ball up top, where he will have to drive toward the basket or settle for an outside jumper.
Is he capable of scoring under such circumstances?
Yes, Davis is an impressive ball-handler and has some range to his game.
But is that where he will feel most comfortable? Is that where the Hornets will be able to maximize his scoring potential?
Just because Davis can handle the rock and knock down outside shots doesn't mean he should have to.
As versatile as he is, New Orleans doesn't need him to be a stretch forward, not primarily. After all, the team has Anderson for that.
The Hornets need Davis to develop into the low-post scoring threat they don't have, the one Robin Lopez and Jason Smith aren't—and will never be.
So let's for humor's sake assume that Davis can excel over-utilizing his jumper. Is that really what New Orleans wants—a stretch forward with continuously underdeveloped low-post sets?
Again, absolutely not.
But this is what Gordon's absence does to Davis. It forces him to not only shoulder the offensive burden, but shoulder it outside of his comfort zone, outside of the initial circumstances the Hornets need for him to play under.
That could be problematic, to the point where Davis is no longer a lock to win the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.
Having to carry too much of a burden too soon is always dangerous for rookies. Having to do so without playing to your strengths, though, is even more perilous.
Yet that's exactly what Davis will be asked, will be expected to do, until Gordon returns to action.
Whenever that is.
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