Does Tyreke Evans' Trade to Pelicans Mean Eric Gordon's NOLA Days Are Numbered?

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Does Tyreke Evans' Trade to Pelicans Mean Eric Gordon's NOLA Days Are Numbered?

Tyreke Evans is in for the New Orleans Pelicans, and Eric Gordon could still be out.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans tendered a four-year offer worth $40-plus million to the Sacramento Kings' restricted free agent, and per David Aldridge of NBA.com, he verbally committed to it.

Not wanting to match the contract offer, deeming it "excessive," Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Kings agreed to sign-and-trade Evans to the Pelicans in a three-team deal also involving the Portland Trail Blazers:

The New Orleans Pelicans have reached agreement on a three-way deal with Sacramento and Portland to acquire guard Tyreke Evans, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

As part of a sign-and-trade arrangement, Evans will come to the Pelicans on a four-year, $44 million contract. New Orleans will send guard Greivis Vasquez to the Kings and center Robin Lopez to the Trail Blazers, sources said.

Portland will send future draft considerations and cash in the deal, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

One way or the other, Evans was always going to end up in New Orleans. If a trade couldn't be ironed out, the Kings' distaste for what they believed to be an "excessive" contract would have compelled them to allow Evans to walk away for nothing.

The Pelicans' interest in Evans can seem perplexing. They already have plenty of guards on the roster even after dealing away Greivis Vasquez in Gordon, Austin Rivers and Jrue Holiday. Adding one more still would be overkill. Someone may have to go.

Vasquez was that first someone; now Gordon may follow.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans maybe be all set in the backcourt.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent, but I do feel comfortable I am coming back,” Gordon said to Yahoo! Sports' Marc. J Spears on the subject of the Pelicans acquiring Evans. “I think there is a good to great chance I will be back.”

Or maybe not.

At 6'6", Evans can play the small forward position; he spent more than a fifth of the Kings' total team minutes there last season, according to 82games. Starting him at the 3 can be done—though perhaps not on the Pelicans.

New Orleans isn't starting a sizable shooting guard in Gordon every night. Standing at 6'3", he's at an overwhelming size disadvantage most nights. Against any team that doesn't run a hybrid combo-guard lineup, defensive assignments are an issue. He's a shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body.

None of that seems to be a problem when he's scoring. While he's appeared in just 51 total games for New Orleans over the last two seasons, he's put up a combined average of 17.6 points. 

Those 51 contests, however, are a part of the problem. Gordon's knees have given him problems since he was first dealt to the Pelicans (then Hornets) in the Chris Paul blockbuster. And after signing him to a four-year deal worth $58 million last summer, the Pelicans are now on the hook for another $44.5 million over the next three years.

For a player capable of scoring 18-20 points a night, that seems reasonable. When that player has appeared in just 34.5 percent of the team's games since joining them and connected on a mere 40.2 percent of his field-goal attempts last season, it's steep. Incredibly steep.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Evans is a better fit for New Orleans, if you have to pick one.

Really, this is less about Evans' arrival and more about the dollars, cents and arthroscopic surgeries of it all.

Evans and Gordon could (probably) play alongside each other, and it may even work. Knowing that an injury-prone Gordon is making more in the next three years than Evans will earn over the life of his contract isn't likely to sit well with New Orleans' front office, though. Or anyone who's a fan of economical acquisitions, for that matter.

Evans is more than capable of undertaking the shooting guard responsibilities full time. He's had his fair share of injury issues himself (plantar fasciitis), but he's played in 128 games over the last two seasons to Gordon's 51, more than twice as many.

There's the similarities in their production to consider as well. Take a look at their per-36 minute breakdowns from last season:

Player FGM FGA FG% 3P% PTS REBS ASTS STLS PER
Tyreke Evans 6.5 13.7 47.8 33.8 17.6 5.1 4.1 1.6 18.1
Eric Gordon 6.7 16.6 40.2 32.4 20.3 2.2 3.9 1.3

15.4

Not only are those numbers similar, but one can (and should) argue Evans' numbers are better. He had a more well-rounded impact than Gordon, which is a huge deal for a Pelicans team with a bunch of interchangeable parts in the backcourt now.

To put that in even greater perspective, J.R. Smith, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, is being paid roughly $6 million annually by the New York Knicks, as reported by Marc Berman of the New York Post, after averaging 19.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals per 36 minutes with shooting percentages of 42.5 and 35.6, respectively.

Smith is more than three years older than Gordon, and his ceiling is far lower, but why should the Pelicans overpay the former when they have someone like Evans—someone younger and more efficient, who has managed to appear in 10 more games through his four-year career (257) than Gordon has through his five-year stint (247).

Gordon's 2012-13 shot chart (via NBA.com).

Moving Gordon now will be difficult for each of the reasons we've just discussed—money, overrated production and health—but it's not impossible.

Harry How/Getty Images
Gordon's days in New Orleans could be numbered.

Some teams will still look at him and see the player the Pelicans thought they were trading for almost two years ago. And that player may still be there. With some time and further development, Gordon may live up to expectations.

Trading him away only to watch him flourish on another outfit would normally be agonizing. The Pelicans aren't faced with that kind of or-else ultimatum, though. 

Dealing Gordon doesn't leave them with nothing. Evans is there, ready to take up the mantle right beside Holiday. His Manu Ginobili-esque skill set and evolving ability to play off the ball suit what the Pelicans need, certainly more than Gordon does.

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New Orleans has more pressing matters to address, like landing a legitimate small forward or a big man not named Robin Lopez. Gordon's salary impedes the Pelicans' ability to retool those positions in free agency.

No, they didn't have to tender that offer to Evans. They could have just continued to move forward with Gordon. And they still may.

But they could also go with the added certainty and flexibility Evans provides. They can dangle Gordon as a trade chip in hopes of filling any one of their positional needs. Or they could trade him in an attempt to open even more cap space next summer, when a slew of talented wings will be available.

“I’m all in with the Pelicans,” said Gordon. “It would be great if we can all play together. I would say we’d definitely have a chance to make the playoffs."

New Orleans is all in on Evans, who is willing to be the sixth man if that's what it takes.

Now that he's is coming to New Orleans, the Pelicans can make Gordon more available than they ever have. Dollar signs and statistical analysis may force them to.

Well that, and perhaps their desire to amount to something better than average as well.

 

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