NBA Teams That Should Trade for New Orleans Pelicans' Eric Gordon

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIIApril 30, 2013

NBA Teams That Should Trade for New Orleans Pelicans' Eric Gordon

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    One of the New Orleans Pelicans' top priorities this offseason needs to be finding a new home for shooting guard Eric Gordon

    After two seasons, it has become evident that things aren't going to work out with the centerpiece of 2011's Chris Paul trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. The team opted to match Phoenix's four-year, $58 million offer to keep the oft-injured Gordon as its franchise guard. 

    In return, the former Indiana standout has repaid the team by missing 97 out of 148 games the past two years. 

    In Gordon's defense, he's also led the then-Hornets in scoring in those two seasons, averaging 20.6 points per game in 2011-12 and 17 points a night this season. 

    His lack of durability is a concern, but it is something New Orleans should have been aware of when it rolled the dice on acquiring Gordon in the first place. Since being drafted by L.A. in 2008, he's never made it a full season and has played more than 60 games twice.

    Injuries aren't the only issue the team should have with its brittle guard. Gordon got off on the wrong foot with the locals when he spent the summer professing his desire to play in Phoenix. 

    "I strongly feel they are the right franchise for me," Gordon said back in July. "Phoenix is just where my heart is now."

    Of course, Gordon said all the right things about wanting to play in New Orleans not long after the team matched the Suns' offer, but his previous comments will always stick in fans' craw. 

    Making matters worse, Gordon butted heads with head coach Monty Williams late in an April showdown with the Sacramento Kings

    Inevitably, the injuries, attitude and lack of interest in playing for the team add up. After exploring a deal for Gordon in February, the team seems open to moving its disgruntled guard this summer

    The question now becomes who should consider making a move for the Pelicans star? 

    The candidates need to pass a three-part criterion. First, they need to have a spot at shooting guard to accommodate Gordon—or be willing to deal their current shooting guard in the deal.

    Second, they need to have something that the Pelicans would find enticing in return for the 24-year-old shooter, like draft picks or another young piece the team could build around. 

    Finally, and most importantly, they have to have the cap space to foolishly, er, daringly take on the almost $45 million Gordon is owed over the next three seasons. 

    There are plenty of teams who could use a solid, young shooting guard. However, only a few teams managed to make the cut. 

Indiana Pacers

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    The trade that always seems to be mentioned by readers any time the idea of moving Gordon comes up is one that sends the former Hoosier back home in exchange for New Orleans' own, Danny Granger. 

    The Pacers will only have $49 million on the books for next season. Granger is owed $14 million next season in what is his contract year. To make the salaries match, Indiana could swap the former New Mexico product for Gordon without adding other bodies.

    The only problem financially is that it would be paying Gordon for two more seasons than it would have to pay Granger. The upside is Gordon's presence allows this year's Most Improved Player Paul George to move to his natural small forward position. 

    The big rewards for New Orleans are that Granger fills the team's void at small forward while also saving it close to $30 million after next season. 

    The downside of this trade is obvious for both teams. 

    Granger's knee troubles this season makes Gordon seem like Iron Man. The 30-year-old played in only five games this year. This was the only season where he's missed major time, but there has to be concern whether the injury will linger into next season.

    As for Indiana, the risk of taking on Gordon is well-known. His injury history is well-documented, and it is hard to fall in love with his contract going forward. In essence, both teams would be trading one pricey, bad knee for another. 

    Still, the deal has its positives. The Pacers would be getting younger, while the Hornets save some money. There's also the factor of both players being increasingly happier playing back home. 

    It isn't the ideal trade for New Orleans, but it is an option. 

Phoenix Suns

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    While it would set a bad precedent, there is always the option of sending Eric Gordon where he's wanted to go since last summer: Phoenix. 

    The problem with doing that is two-fold. First, by giving into Gordon, the front office would be setting example that disgruntled players can dictate their terms if they try hard enough to force the team's hand. 

    Second, short of center Marcin Gortat, the Suns don't have many pieces who would be enticing to New Orleans. Phoenix has some nice future draft picks, including Minnesota's pick next year and the Lakers' pick in 2015. 

    They also have small forward Jared Dudley, who could be a nice stopgap option at small forward. 

    That's about it, though. 

    Gortat and Dudley would be nice additions who could upgrade two areas for New Orleans. Also, acquiring Gortat could allow the team to dangle Robin Lopez and possibly PG Greivis Vasquez in an attempt to acquire another piece (Eric Bledsoe, perhaps?).

    Another option is taking on Gortat and the Lakers' pick in 2015, which could be intriguing if Los Angeles continues to decline. Granted, neither of those deals are going to make fans feel good about getting rid of the best player. 

    However, moving Gordon within the conference to a team like Phoenix won't hurt New Orleans that much. Even if he miraculously stays healthy, Phoenix doesn't have enough around Gordon to stand in the Pelicans' way of a playoff run. 

    It's a deal centered around interest. Gordon seems to love Phoenix. Phoenix could use a shooting guard. The only potential road block is whether New Orleans is willing to kowtow to its star and try to make chicken salad out of chicken scratch. 

Utah Jazz

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    With Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter entrenched as the frontcourt of the future, the Jazz have a good reason to bid adieu to pending free agents Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. 

    However, that doesn't mean the team can't try to get something of value in a sign-and-trade for one of its prized veteran big men. In this case, that "prize" would be Eric Gordon. 

    A Jefferson-for-Gordon deal would work out well for both teams. The Jazz will have some cap flexibility with Millsap and Jefferson off the books and could use a scorer like Gordon. The Pelicans would certainly love to pair "Big Al" with budding star Anthony Davis. 

    The key would be getting Jefferson to agree to a deal with New Orleans over playing for a contender such as San Antonio. Assuming that hurdle is cleared, this is one of the better scenarios for the Pelicans. 

    Jefferson would be a huge upgrade over current center Robin Lopez. He led the Jazz in scoring and rebounding this past season, averaging 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds a night. He would give New Orleans an offensive weapon in the post and another big body on the glass. 

    As for Utah, the team tried to get by with combo guards running the point this season. Randy Foye and Mo Williams got a brunt of the starts. Both are free agents this summer, and replacing them with Gordon at the point would allow the Jazz to keep Gordon Hayward at the 2. 

    It also gives the Jazz someone capable of replacing the offense vacated by Jefferson and Millsap. Kanter and Favors are still too raw to carry the scoring load. Gordon would relish being the primary option on a team who isn't far removed from its last playoff berth. 

    It's a dream scenario that works out for both parties. At 28 years old, Jefferson is still young and in his prime and could be a huge part of the Pelicans' rebuild. Gordon would give the Jazz the scoring guard they've missed since trading away Deron Williams. 

Detroit Pistons

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    The main concept behind this deal is based on a hypothetical situation. The Pistons finished the regular season two wins better than the Pelicans at 29-53.

    In theory, New Orleans has a better chance at picking higher than Detroit at the NBA Draft on June 27. The Pistons have a young core in guard Brandon Knight as well as big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.

    However, if the lottery has the Pistons picking behind New Orleans and Cleveland (as expected), they will find themselves in an interesting situation. 

    Georgetown's Otto Porter, Kansas' Ben McLemore and Indiana's Victor Oladipo are the three best wing players in this year's draft. The Pistons could use an upgrade at shooting guard and have a definite need at small forward.

    If all three of those players are off the board when Detroit goes on the clock, what direction could it go in? 

    The Pistons don't need a point guard, so Michigan's Trey Burke and Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams are out. With the frontcourt set, Detroit probably doesn't need someone like Indiana's Cody Zeller or Maryland's Alex Len. 

    That leaves Detroit with two options: It could opt for someone like UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad, who would provide offense and not much else, or they could trade the pick for, say, Eric Gordon.

    With Jose Calderon and Corey Maggette's contracts coming off the books, the Pistons will have some money to spend. They can afford to take on a risky contract like Gordon's. He would give them a more proven commodity in the backcourt rather than rolling the dice on a rookie like Mohammad. 

    As for New Orleans, a trade for Detroit's 2013 pick and Rodney Stuckey would give the team a number of options. It could try to package the picks and attempt to move up to secure someone like Porter or McLemore.

    It could also fill a couple of needs by using the picks on any two of the Oladipo/Len/Zeller/Burke quadrant. Most importantly, trading Gordon to Detroit keeps him out of the Western Conference. 

    This year's draft isn't very deep with players like Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Michigan's Glenn Robinson III opting to return to school. There's a calculated risk in trading your best player for another draft pick in a weak draft. 

    Still, the Pelicans are a young team who needs to fill a number of holes. The possibility of turning Gordon's horrid contract into two more potential starters is worth the risk.

    Even if the pick doesn't pan out, New Orleans would save money and still have a decent replacement in Stuckey, who's owed $8.5 million in a contract year next season. 

Philadelphia 76ers

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    In keeping with the theme of sending Eric Gordon to the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers would be an interesting destination. 

    For starters, they finished 30th in the NBA in scoring, with an average of 93.2 points per game. And 10.6 points of that nightly scoring output belongs to shooting guard Nick Young, who is a free agent this summer. 

    The Sixers have $46 million committed to the salary cap for next season and a number of interesting decisions. The biggest question is what they will do with center Andrew Bynum, who is also a free agent this summer and didn't play a single game for Philly after coming over in the Dwight Howard trade. 

    The team could also opt to bring Young back at a price close to the $6 million he made last year. The Sixers could also swing a deal for Eric Gordon. 

    Gordon would provide a scoring boost while pairing with point guard Jrue Holiday to give the team a solid guard tandem. He's a more expensive option than Young and is a huge injury risk, but there's the potential for something special if he can stay healthy. 

    The main components who would be heading to New Orleans would be guard Evan Turner and forward Jason Richardson. 

    Turner's name came up during the trade deadline in a deal for Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The former No. 2 overall pick contributed in a number of ways last season, averaging 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game. 

    He hasn't managed to produce in the pros like he did at Ohio State, but he has been a solid contributor. As for Richardson, he's a decent veteran whose contract—roughly $13 million owed the next two seasons—helps make the deal work financially.

    Richardson's best days may be behind him, but he wouldn't be a terrible option as the Pelicans' starting small forward. 

    There are obvious reasons why the Sixers wouldn't do this deal. First, after getting burned by Bynum this past season, Philadelphia would be reasonably reluctant to acquire another player with a bum knee. 

    Second, Turner's numbers have increased each season. He's developing into a fine young shooting guard. Inevitably, it comes down to whether the Sixers try to win now with a more proven guard in Gordon or continue to wait on Turner to develop. 

    On the bright side, a trio of Gordon, Holiday and Bynum—if he re-signs—is a nice young nucleus to build around. It's a nucleus with a shaky foundation, but it is promising nonetheless. 

    As for the Hornets, Turner would be a nice jack-of-all-trades option at shooting guard, and Richardson could provide the veteran presence in the locker room that will be left behind by Roger Mason's inevitable departure.