When news of the Chris Paul trade broke, the collective ears of Pacer Nation instantly perked up - and not for the same reason as the average NBA fan. Indiana Pacers fans were far more interested in another name that was involved in the blockbuster deal. That name was hometown favorite Eric Gordon.
Pacers fans have long fantasized about the idea of the potential all-star guard donning the blue and gold. With this trade, that fantasy becomes a possibility - albeit a very slight one.
It is no secret around the league that the situation in New Orleans is a mess. They are a team in full rebuild mode with no owner to push the rebuild in any one direction, and a GM who is powerless to make roster moves without the NBA breathing down his neck.
One can easily understand why Eric Gordon was not exactly thrilled by the news.
Will this be enough to keep Gordon from signing a lucrative extension with the Hornets this season? Pacers fans certainly hope so.
As of right now, Gordon will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2012. If the Pacers are going to eventually land EJ - and yes, that's a really big IF - here are a few possible ways it could play out.
P.S. - I encourage you to comment and tell me which of these you like or dislike, as well as any other ideas you may have!
The first option would essentially be a Danny Granger for Eric Gordon swap. However, the Hornets would need to send more salary Indiana's way in order to make this deal work.
The major variable for the Pacers would be who's contract they would have to take back in such a deal.
If, for example, the Pacers would only have to take back Chris Kaman's expiring contract - this is where the future draft considerations come in - then it's the perfect deal for the Pacers.
However, the more likely scenario would involve the Hornets sending Emeka Okafor and his bloated contract to the Pacers.
Such a move would limit the Pacers cap flexibility in the coming years, which could be detrimental when it comes time to resign key players like Roy Hibbert and George Hill this offseason, and Paul George soon after.
If the Pacers could somehow pull of a Granger for Gordon swap while still maintaining cap flexibility, this deal would be a no-brainer for Indiana. This would allow George to slide to his natural small forward spot. In addition, the Pacers long standing need for a player who can create his own shot in the clutch would finally be met.
This scenario is much less likely than the previous one. However, it is a proposal to which the Hornets management would likely dedicate a lot of thought.
Paul George showed that he has the capability of becoming a lock down defender, and his untapped offensive potential has left many believing that he could eventually become a superstar.
Tyler Hansbrough is a high energy, maximum effort player that every coach in their right mind would love to have on their team.
Add in a future pick or two, and I can't see why the Hornets would turn this deal down. The question then becomes, would the Pacers do it?
In all likelihood, the Pacers would have no interest in consummating such a deal, as Bird has referred to Paul George as "untouchable" in trade talks.
Might that change if the opportunity to acquire Gordon arises? Or does Paul George's potential upside outweigh the prospects of adding the young guard? Time will tell.
Waiting for free agency might prove to be the best, and quite frankly the only option for the Pacers. It's the only way they'll be able to add Gordon without subtracting from their young, budding core, or taking up a large chunk of the their cap space.
While the Hornets will have the right to match any deal the Pacers might propose, the Pacers will have the cap flexibility to offer Gordon a deal that the Hornets will have to think long and hard about matching, given the current state of New Orleans' payroll.
The Hornets are currently more than $10 million over the cap, and while Chris Kaman's contract, in addition to a few others, will be come off the books this offseason, resigning Gordon would likely push them back over. A complete lack of cap flexibility could present huge problems for a franchise heading into full rebuilding mode.
If the Pacers were able to sign Gordon in free agency, Granger would become expendable, as the addition of Gordon would likely move George to the small forward position. Granger could be flipped for a very high draft pick to a lowly team desperate to put rear-ends in seats.
On the other side of the coin, Stern fought so hard to get what he thought was the perfect deal for Chris Paul, with Gordon being one of the key elements of the agreement. If the league still owns the Hornets by that time, it will be difficult to imagine Stern allowing Gordon to walk in the offseason.