Eric Gordon started the season off on the bench behind Cuttino Mobley. In his 13 games off the bench he averaged 4.5 points on 32.6% shooting in 13.6 minutes with 1.2 turnovers. Then Mike Dunleavy traded Cat Mobley and dead weight Tim Thomas to the Knicks for Mr. Bad Attitude (no, not Mr. T’s A-team character B.A., I’m talkin’ Zach Randolph here). Many in Clipperland weren’t too happy about this, however a sometime-not-discussed aspect to the trade is that it freed up the reins for Eric Gordon to cut loose.
As a starter in 64 games, Gordon got nearly triple the minutes he did off the bench. Had he produced at the same rate, that would’ve amounted to 13.5 points at 32.6% with 3.6 turnovers. Instead he upped both his points and field-goal percentage dramatically while keeping his turnovers down to a mere 2.3. After last year’s draft, ESPN stat guru John Hollinger felts the Clips massively overreached to get Gordon, citing EG’s 3-point shooting and turnovers as two red flags.
Gordon had an injured wrist for half of his one college season, resulting in a 3-pt% of 33.7 at school. As a Clipper, December was his worst 3-pt shooting month — he hit only 34.4% during this second month of the season (and his first full month as a starter). The next month he improved to 37.9% which would make him one of the better outside shooters in the league. In the next three months (aka the rest of the season), he never averaged under 40%.
Keep in mind, this isn’t the Lakers where teams are focusing on Kobe, Pau & Odom so Ariza gets wide-open shots. Randolph, aka the Black Hole, never passed out from the post, and he was injured for most of the season. Kaman was injured too and unable to provide a post-presence. Al Thornton, aka Little Black Hole, was born allergic to passing. Baron Davis was injured too, and when he did play, Dunleavy preferred BDiddy to keep his balls in a jar and just pass to Randolph, Thorton or Gordon so they could attempt an iso play. This year in Summer League, Blake Griffin already showed he’s a willing (and underrated) passer, which’ll only help Gordon. If Le Baron and Kaman are healthy, EG should be able to have a shooting par-tay.
Although let’s be clear, EG is not going to just be the team’s designated Piatkowski (or Novak for the new fans). He is a flat-out baller. Although undersized for SG at 6’3”, he’s built like a brick house. Thus when he drives to the basket he’s very good at absorbing the contact and then finishing. Also, unlike Thornton, his drives never seem forced, he never seems to be out of control, and he’s a willing passer when there’s nothing there.
In fact, probably the most impressive quality about him is that he does play so heady and doesn’t make poor choices. Most rookies, if put on a team that went down the poop-chute like the Clips did last year, a team that had all its vets go down, leaving a bunch of mediocre players who had at most three years experience, well most rookies they would’ve shot like they were on a duck hunt with a machine gun. What, was Dunleavy gonna complain that he wanted more shots for Thornton, Novak, Mardy Collins, DeAndre Jordan, Mike Taylor, and Alex Acker? But Gordon played with a maturity that is extremely rare for a rook. Actually, I thought another rookie who played with similar poise was Courtney Lee on the Magic. However the Magic had a top team, so if Courtney wanted to play he couldn’t shoot with impunity. Would Lee have been just as savvy if given the keys to the Clips after seeing how all the other vet drivers bashed it up as much as they pleased?
There’s an endless number of players who shot indiscriminately on bad teams (like EG’s current teammate Ricky Davis). It can be particularly tough for perimeter players ‘cuz without being able to bang down low for high-percentage shots, basically except for lay-ups, all their shots are lower-percentage. Even lay-ups often require the little guys to shoot over the big guys at the rim. Devin Harris shot 43.8% last season, 3-pt marksman Chauncey Billups 41.8%, Stephen Jackson 41.5%, Vince Carter 43.7%, Joe Johnson 43.7%, Rashard Lewis 43.9%, Jamal Crawford 41%, Al Harrington 43.9%, Hedo Turkoglu 41.3%, Ron Artest 40.1%, Anthony Parker 42.6%, Shane Battier 41%, fellow rookies Russell Westbrook 39.9% & DJ Augustin 43% & Rudy Fernadez 42.5% & even PF Kevin Love only shot 45.9%. For the last 3 months of the season EG shot 47%, 45.7% and 52.1% respectively. His average for the season was 45.6%, so it seems likely that with a full season under his belt and with more healthy fire-power beside him, Gordon should easily be able to improve on that.
Oh, and I just realized I’ve spent all this time on O, but EG is also a great one-on-one defender with quick feet and fast hands that can sometimes strip a shooter as he goes up to shoot. The big issue however is that he’s undersized, so the Kobes of the world can just rise above him and get off a shot. Since Gordon’s pretty strong it’s not that easy for bigger guards to post him up, but that also is a bit of a concern. My guess is that in the off-season he worked more on his offensive game, but in a few years when he decides to focus on the defensive end (like LeBron & DWade finally did last year), he could be a very good defender.
Thus for me it seems like the biggest problem with him is his age. Since he hasn’t hit 21, I can’t take him out for a drink yet to say thanks. I guess I could always get him a lemonade or something. Or maybe I should just want 5 or 6 years when he finally hits prime and turns into a monster. Although if I wait that long, I’ll probably end up owing him 248 kegs.