NBA Draft: Eric Gordon, Superstar

Dan MalatoCorrespondent IJune 24, 2008

When you're picking at the top of the draft, you're looking for a player to make a winner out of your group of losers.  To ensure that the player you select proves worthy, it is important to examine both his basketball skills and his character.

Eric Gordon, the star shooting guard of a wildly successful Indiana team, has been a projected lottery pick for some time now.  By most accounts, his selection Thursday will confirm he is one of the 10 best players in the draft.  And once you dissect his game, it becomes abundantly clear why.

Let's begin with his hardwood abilities.  As a freshman for the Hoosiers, Gordon averaged 20.9 points,  3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.  He has a "gorgeous " jump shot that has wowed GMs in his pre-draft workouts.  That translated into a stunning 43-percent shooting percentage—including an eye-popping 33.7-percent from downtown.

Measured at 6'3" and 222 pounds at pre-draft camps, Gordon enters the NBA a full inch shorter and seven pounds heavier than he was listed for IU.  Still, he's a good size for a point guard, just as big and strong as those he'll encounter in the Association. 

However, Gordon is a shooting guard.

This distinction has become a bit of a nuisance for Gordon because he really isn't tall enough to play the two in the NBA.  His size really lends itself more to the point.  Sure, he had trouble taking care of the ball last season—posting a sneaky .68 assist-to-turnover ratio—but a few two-ball drills in practice should take care of that. 

Don't forget, Gordon played many of his games in very hostile environments.  In a double-overtime thriller on the road against a powerhouse Illinois squad last February, he only dribbled the ball off his foot a couple times and finished with a remarkable seven turnovers despite the raucous crowd.  Just think what he can do in an NBA arena during the playoffs.

At this spot in the draft, a team needs to look for a player they can count on to deliver in big games.  Gordon has plenty of experience there.  He dropped 16 points on Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament.  He followed that up with a big eight points against Arkansas in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. 

Don't mind the fact that he was 0-12 from beyond the arc, or that his team lost both of those games.  With Gordon, you have to read between the stat lines sometimes. 

Focus on his four combined fouls in those contests.  That's not even close to the five you need to foul out, so you know he's going to be on the court when you need him.  Also, he showed a knack for getting to the foul line, shooting 18 free throws in those two games.  He made 10 of them.  That's more than half!

Maybe most importantly, you want a player with integrity that you can build your franchise around.  As a senior in high school, young Eric followed his dream and attended local Indiana University.  All his tireless effort paid off.  It shows that when Eric Gordon commits himself to something, nothing can stop him.

Some might say that by attending Indiana, Gordon broke his word with Illinois coach Bruce Weber to play ball in Champaign.  This is a bunch of bullhonkey.  Leaving a respectable basketball program in complete shambles after months of whispering sweet nothings into its ear is a tiny price to pay for the chance to play under the great coach—and all-around honorable human being—Kelvin Sampson.

So it is easy to see why NBA teams have been gazing with such lust at this guy.  Forget D.J. Augustin, Jerryd Bayless, or NCAA Champion Brandon Rush.  Give me that loyal, undersized shooter who may or may not be able to take more than 10 consecutive dribbles and retain the ball.   

That way, I can pick in the lottery every year!  I've always preferred the drama of the ping-pong balls over the playoffs anyway.