Potential Landing Spots for Ben Gordon After Being Waived by Charlotte Bobcats
UPDATE: Sunday, February 2 at 11:52 a.m. ET by Ethan Norof
The Charlotte Bobcats have officially announced that the team has waived Ben Gordon. Gordon will not be eligible to join another contender's postseason roster after missing the deadline by a single day, per John Schuhmann of NBA.com
--End of update--
Ben Gordon is running out of time.
In order to play during the postseason, he must complete a buyout with the Charlotte Bobcats by the end of March 1, and that still hasn't happened quite yet. As David Aldridge wrote for NBA.com, "Players have to be released by their current team by March 1 in order to be playoff-eligible. They can sign with another team at any point afterward, even after March 1, and still be playoff eligible."
Gordon and the team are discussing their options, but they've seemed to be doing that for months now.
ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne is the latest to report that the buyout discussions are ongoing, as she tweeted the following on Feb. 28: "Still a chance Gordon stays in Charlotte if buyout talks aren't successful and other landing spots don't materialize, according to sources."
There's a chance he stays, but there's also a chance he's freed from the end of the Charlotte bench.
The 30-year-old shooting guard has had trouble making much of an impact with the 'Cats, but he offers plenty of upside as an offensive contributor for a contending team. Once he's in a more beneficial situation, he'll prove exactly why he's part of the reason this buyout crop is so much stronger than the typical group.
But where would he land once successfully bought out?
Gordon won't go to a team with no shot at winning a playoff series. He'll presumably want to play in the postseason, but he'll also want to earn playing time by signing on with a squad that actually has a hole in the backcourt.
Fortunately for him, there are a few possibilities.
The Chicago Bulls could use Ben Gordon from a talent perspective, even if the franchise hasn't yet shown any interest.
"Chicago, the team that drafted Gordon, looks headed for the postseason and could certainly use an extra scorer," writes Joel Brigham for BasketballInsiders.com, "But they’re so ridiculously close to the luxury tax threshold that they have to be careful with how they spend their money."
Money should be considered. But then it should be forgotten about, because the benefits of signing Gordon trump all of the negatives.
The obvious connection is the two parties' history with one another, as Gordon was selected by Chicago at No. 3 in the 2004 NBA draft. He spent the first five seasons of his career in the Windy City, averaging over 20 points per game on two separate occasions.
But beyond that, there's a need for another scorer, as Brigham pointed out.
Chicago is quite thin on the wings, going to war with just Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell. Because Butler's shooting has betrayed him during what was supposed to be his breakout season, there's been an inordinate amount of pressure on Dunleavy to contribute offensively and do more than drain three-pointer after three-pointer.
Help is needed, and it could be found in the form of Gordon.
Chicago ranks only 28th in offensive rating, per Basketball-Reference, and shoring up that point-scoring prowess is the only way the suffocating defense will be able to carry this squad through more than a few games in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Francisco Garcia knows that the Houston Rockets could use a little more help on the wings.
To put everything in perspective, Jordan Hamilton played crunch-time minutes as soon as he was acquired from the Denver Nuggets just before the trade deadline, and that really shouldn't be happening. He's an athletic upside candidate, but he shouldn't be contributing this much for a contending team.
Hamilton has to play a lot, though, simply because the Rockets don't have many other options. Unless Kevin McHale wants to play Omri Casspi, Garcia or Robert Covington at the 2, it's James Harden and Hamilton making up the shooting guard rotation.
According to ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne, the Rockets are thinking about making a two-year offer to Gordon, one that includes a team option for the latter season. It's that option clause that may drive Gordon off, as he wants to maintain his flexibility in free agency.
Still, it would be worth caving to Gordon's interests.
General manager Daryl Morey loves his numbers, and he should recognize the simple math that shows his team has more minutes to dole out than quality players to receive them. There's too much pressure on Harden and Hamilton, and it's not often an opportunity to remedy that pops up this late in the season.
The Miami Heat are normally a hotbed for players without a home. They can offer a bit of playing time, a chance to line up next to superstars and a fantastic shot at a ring.
However, the overtures have been rebuffed by most bought-out players thus far. Caron Butler felt like a shoo-in thanks to his friendship with Dwyane Wade and history with the team, but he chose to go elsewhere. So too did Danny Granger, and the Heat are now left still trying to fill the roster spot that opened up with the Roger Mason Jr. trade.
Could Ben Gordon fit?
He certainly wouldn't hurt, as Miami always seems to be looking for players who can light up the scoreboard off the bench while thriving on drive-and-kick three-point opportunities.
The 30-year-old guard's shot has completely deserted him this season, but that's largely due to a lack of playing time and unhappiness with his spot on a non-contending team. I'm more inclined to bet on the player who entered the year shooting 40.1 percent beyond the arc during his last three seasons than the one who has fallen off a cliff this go-round, well before his age indicates that should happen.
The Heat should be as well. He's a high-upside option (relatively) for a buyout candidate.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder still only have 14 players rostered after adding Caron Butler, who was bought out by the Milwaukee Bucks.
There's good depth at all but one position.
At point guard, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson are great options, while Derek Fisher is a solid third-string floor general. The small forward rotation is remarkably deep, even though it doesn't need to be with Kevin Durant leading the charge. Power forwards are solid with Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and plenty of small-ball choices, and centers are deep when healthy.
But at shooting guard, the Thunder have to give Thabo Sefolosha major minutes while hoping that Jeremy Lamb can pull his weight on a consistent basis. If they're going to add one more player, it needs to be at that position.
Hence their interest in Gordon.
According to Shelburne, "The Thunder is the latest team to express interest in guard Ben Gordon, source says."
He's not a huge need, as the addition of Butler should do wonders for the perimeter offense off the bench. Consider him more of a luxury than anything else.
But hey, OKC is in a position that allows them to pursue luxuries.
According to Rotoworld's depth charts, the Toronto Raptors don't even have a backup shooting guard. John Salmons and some of the point guards can play there when DeMar DeRozan needs a rest, but there's no pure 2-guard to come off the bench.
Nonetheless, it's time we start considering the Raptors fringe contenders. They don't belong in the same class as the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, but they're clearly the No. 3 team in the Eastern Conference and have some shot of pulling off an upset.
Basketball-Reference shows that Toronto ranks No. 10 in offensive rating and No. 7 in defensive rating. They've been steadily climbing the ranks throughout the second half of the season, and there's no reason for them to give up now.
It's the offense that still needs a little help, especially when it's necessary for the second string to generate points without the help of a starting backcourt member. That's a role Gordon thrives in, as he's always been a solid scoring option when placed in the right situation.
Is a minor upgrade all it takes for Toronto to put a scare into the two conference favorites?
Probably not, but it sure wouldn't hurt to find out.