Ranking Potential Destinations for New Orleans Pelicans' Eric Gordon

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2014

Ranking Potential Destinations for New Orleans Pelicans' Eric Gordon

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    Regardless of whether his heart has shifted from Phoenix to the bayou, Eric Gordon might not spend too much more time as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans

    Sporting News' Sean Deveney reports that the team currently rostering the overpaid 2-guard is now actively shopping him: 

    A little more than two years after acquiring him, and 18 months after matching a four-year, $58 million offer sheet from Phoenix, the Pelicans remain active in their pursuit of trading guard Eric Gordon, league sources told Sporting News this week. New Orleans has made contact with several teams about Gordon, even devising three-team scenarios in order to find him a new home.

    It's not that Gordon has been playing unacceptably bad basketball. In fact, he's averaging 16.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists during his second season with the New Orleans-based franchise. 

    But Gordon isn't what the Pelicans need, especially because Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans are also present in the backcourt. Instead, the team could use some frontcourt help to make Anthony Davis' job easier, or it could start planning for the future. 

    Holiday's fractured ankle, as reported by the Pelicans themselves, will knock him out indefinitely. This latest injury—especially during a season full of a never-ending stream of maladies—essentially feels like the knockout blow in 2013-14, as NOLA should no longer be able to climb into the postseason picture in the difficult Western Conference. 

    As a result, the Pelicans aren't limited to finding frontcourt help. Expiring deals, ones that will help them find that big man next offseason, are quite valuable as well. 

    Fortunately, there are plenty of teams out there who could use a player like Gordon. Seven of them, in fact, and they're ranked in terms of the overall merits of the potential trade. 

7. Denver Nuggets

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    Potential Trade: Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and Darrell Arthur for Eric Gordon and a future second-round pick


    It's time for the Denver Nuggets to break the current roster up and work toward acquiring a star. Eric Gordon might not count as a true star now that he's failed to live up to his massive contract, but he'd be a step in the right direction, especially as he could be later packaged in another upgrade. 

    The Nuggets have tons of depth, but not much of it comes at shooting guard, where Randy Foye is still playing major minutes. 

    Gordon would immediately step into the starting lineup, where he'd help form a potent backcourt duo alongside Ty Lawson, who could use the occasional break from the ball-handling responsibilities. 

    As for the Pelicans, they'd fill two of their biggest needs in one fell swoop. 

    Timofey Mozgov has looked like a quality center when he's gotten onto the court in the Mile High City, averaging a career-best 8.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, and Wilson Chandler has always been a solid, athletic option at small forward. 

    It's tough to find a team that can take on Gordon's salary while offering to fill both holes in the NOLA rotation, but Denver qualifies. The hole-fillers are a little lackluster, but they can still do the trick.

6. Boston Celtics

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    Potential Trade: Eric Gordon for Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass


    It's all about the expiring contracts here. 

    Kris Humphries comes off the books at the close of the 2013-14 campaign, and that frees up $12 million next offseason. It's tough to find such a large expiring deal, especially when the player in question can actually make positive contributions at either power forward or center. 

    As for Brandon Bass, he's still being acquired primarily for salary reasons. 

    The big man is a solid shot creator and mid-range shooter, but he's overpaid for the next two seasons, and over $6 million will come off the books when his deal expires. 

    For the Boston Celtics, it's easy to get excited about the potential of a Gordon-Rajon Rondo backcourt. Between the diverse array of tools in the 2-guard's skill set and the distributing ability of the point guard, they'd make for a dynamic duo that wouldn't exactly struggle on the less-glamorous end of the court. 

    Gordon would never look better than he would next to a point guard who loves to make his teammates' lives easier, especially while he's the focal point of the scoring efforts. 

5. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Potential Trade: Eric Gordon and Darius Miller for Tayshaun Prince, Kosta Koufos and Quincy Pondexter


    The Memphis Grizzlies get a shooter, and the New Orleans Pelicans get two pieces that can fill in their biggest needs. 

    Assuming that Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis are the building blocks by the bayou, the Pelicans desperately need solutions at small forward and center. Well, that's where Tayshaun Prince and Kosta Koufos come in, and Quincy Pondexter can replace Prince next year when he's returned to health. 

    Koufos might not be the most glamorous name at center, but he's a highly underrated big man who would complement Davis perfectly. A great defensive rebounder who can body up against bigger players and provide the occasional offensive contribution right under the basket, Koufos would essentially allow Davis to spend even more time focusing on his strengths. 

    Meanwhile, the Grizzlies would be able to push the pace more successfully under Dave Joerger, who has been trying to do exactly that during his first season in charge, even though his roster isn't perfectly suited for such a style of play.

    It would be with Gordon and Mike Conley in the same backcourt. 

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Potential Trade: Anderson Varejao and Earl Clark for Eric Gordon


    The Cleveland Cavaliers could really use some outside shooting. 

    According to Hoopsstats.com, Kyrie Irving and Co. do manage to score 62.8 points per game outside the paint, which leaves them ranked 10th in the NBA. Problem is, they shoot just 41.4 percent from the field, a mark that beats only eight other teams. Their overall efficiency outside the paint leaves them ranked at No. 24. 

    Gordon would certainly help with that, as he thrives shooting the ball from the outside. 

    The former Indiana Hoosier originally made a name for himself due to his versatile offense, as his skill set allowed him both to attack the rim and to fire away from the perimeter. This season, he's lofted up 3.8 attempts per game from beyond the arc, and he's making 39.2 percent of them. 

    Acquiring Gordon would allow the Cavs to push Dion Waiters to the bench, where he can serve as a dynamic sixth man who spearheads the offensive push of the second unit while playing either point guard or shooting guard. 

    After the addition of Luol Deng, Cleveland also has an abundance of small forwards, so New Orleans could essentially pick between Earl Clark and C.J. Miles, taking the one it values more. That's Clark in my book, but feel free to make the switch in your mind if you feel it's necessary.

    Anderson Varejao is a sure thing in this deal, though, as the Pelicans could use a trusty big man next to the rising star that is Anthony Davis. 

3. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Potential Trade: Eric Gordon for Ben Gordon and the least-favorable 2014 first-round pick


    Speaking of teams that can't shoot...

    The Charlotte Bobcats are buyers this season, according to Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy, and they need to find a way to improve their offense.

    A lot. 

    Basketball-Reference shows that the 'Cats have slipped a little on defense, falling to No. 8 with a 103.1 defensive rating. But that's far better than the 99.3 offensive rating that is better than only the mark posted by the Milwaukee Bucks

    The problem, just as was the case with the Cleveland Cavaliers, is the outside shooting. 

    Hoopstats.com shows that the Cavs rank No. 13 in points per game outside the paint, No. 21 in field-goal percentage and No. 28 in offensive efficiency. Gordon would certainly help shore up those weaknesses, and it's not like Charlotte is giving up much in this trade. 

    Ben Gordon is nothing more than a massive expiring deal, and the 'Cats could be working with as many as three first-round picks, assuming they fall out of the playoff picture, the Portland Trail Blazers don't plummet down the Western Conference standings and the Detroit Pistons make the postseason in the weaker of the two conferences. 

2. Detroit Pistons

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    Potential Trade: Eric Gordon for Josh Smith


    The New Orleans Pelicans need to move Eric Gordon. The Detroit Pistons need to pull the plug on their ill-fated Josh Smith experiment. 

    It isn't particularly tough to connect the dots.  

    For the Pistons, they're essentially making a choice between the following two scenarios: 

    • Fill in the hole at shooting guard with Gordon, then worry about using Kyle Singler and Luigi Datome to form a committee at small forward. 
    • Keep the hole at shooting guard and use Smith at small forward, which clearly isn't working. 

    Not too tough, right? 

    It makes sense for the Pellies too, as they can let Smith play his more natural position at power forward, shifting Anthony Davis over to center. Those two, between their length and athleticism, would immediately form one of the most intimidating defensive frontcourts in the Association. 

    This also isn't the only possibility. 

    B/R's Joel Cordes suggested in a conversation about potential Gordon trades that the Pistons send back Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva's expiring deal, which also works out quite nicely. Smoove could shift to the 4, still leaving a hole at small forward in Motor City, and the Monroe-Davis frontcourt would be a fantastic one in New Orleans. 

1. Indiana Pacers

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    Potential Trade: Danny Granger for Eric Gordon


    That picture up above is pretty darn relevant. 

    Eric Gordon was a flat-out stud during his one and only season with the Indiana Hoosiers, averaging 20.9 points per game before struggling against the Arkansas Razorbacks in his lone March Madness appearance. 

    He was also born and raised in Indianapolis, so he'd be popular from the first second he threw on an Indiana Pacers uniform. 

    Having Gordon makes sense for the Pacers, and acquiring Danny Granger, a natural small forward, is a logical move for the New Orleans Pelicans. Fortunately, the salaries match rather nicely, so no other pieces are required to make this happen. 

    The Gordon-for-Granger rumors have been around forever, but that doesn't make them any less sensible. It's not too late for both teams to pull the trigger, especially now that Gordon is officially on the block. 

    In fact, no trade would be more mutually beneficial.