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Archive for April 2013

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, JR Smith, OJ Mayo and the important difference between bad and average

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Michael Gilchrist

Michael Gilchrist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So far it’s justified to worry about the Charlotte Bobcats taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 2nd overall. While it’s too early to panic about MKG, it’s not too early to be more exciting about Andre Drummond and Damian Lillard’s franchise player potential.

Did Charlotte make a mistake? It’s too early to say. What makes Kidd-Gilchrist interesting is his combination of strengths and weaknesses. His first step, ballhandling and size make his upside attacking the basket off the dribble nearly unlimited. Kidd-Gilchrist also has great instincts and feel for the game, helping him adjust and recognize space offensively. The combination of physical tools and instincts also give him immense defensive potential.

The elephant in the room is Kidd-Gilchrist’s shooting game. Not only is MKG hapless as a shooter so far, but his shooting from looks simply awful. MKG should inspire no confidence as a shooter.

Kidd-Gilchrist is fascinating because if he becomes even an average perimeter shooter and scorer, he’s likely a perennial all-star. With near unlimited potential physically impacting the game and high instincts, it’s the only missing piece. Give him Luol Deng’s perimeter scoring game and with his upgrade in explosiveness from Deng, he likely rips apart the small forward position for years. My talent grades for Kidd-Gilchrist is 10 in physical impact talent, 8 in feel for the game and 1 in skill impact talent for a total grade of 19, which is enough to start but not to star. Upgrade his skill impact to a 5 or 6 and my grade is 23-24 which is star material. Just as Dwight Howard didn’t need more than average skill level to be a star, Russell Westbrook doesn’t need more than average feel for the game or Steve Nash doesn’t need more than average physical talents, average can do if the rest of talent is near perfect. But to be BAD at an area like physical talents, skill or intelligence is a far bigger problem to get past.

Two players who show this is JR Smith and OJ Mayo. My grade for OJ Mayo is 9 in skill impact talent, 8 in feel for the game and 1 in physical impact talent for a grade of 18. My grade for JR Smith is 9 in skill impact talent, 9 in physical impact talent and 1 in feel for the game for a grade of 19. Both are good numbers, but a level below stardom. OJ’s perimeter scoring skill and offensive smoothness is terrific, but his whole is he just can’t attack the basket off the dribble. Neither the speed or size is there. His game is nearly entirely outside of the paint. I feel confident saying if OJ was merely average at attacking the basket off the dribble to mix up his game, he’d have the perimeter skills and feel to be a star player. The problem is he is a bad slasher, not an average one. Likewise JR Smith is the equivalent for instincts and feel for the game. He has outstanding explosiveness, size and perimeter range. He’s just not a natural or controlled offensive player. With his explosiveness and shooting, I believe even just middling feel for the game and natural control, makes him a stud.

The story of Kidd-Gilchrist’s shooting is not written yet, but unfortunately for all his strengths, if he doesn’t improve his shooting from a bad to average I don’t see him ending up worth that 2nd overall pick. It’s too big a hurdle to get past.

Written by jr.

April 11, 2013 at 11:37 am

33 pt corrections: Re-evaluating a few 2012 draft prospects

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English: French basketball player Evan Fournie...

English: French basketball player Evan Fournier Français : Le joueur de basket-ball français Evan Fournier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year’s draft was the first I used my signature talent grading system for. My rankings in June with them are largely irrelevant, both because I had just come up with the system and because I didn’t post numerical grades for players in it. So I made another just before preseason in October, with grades and a better grasp of my methodology.

I still have a few rankings I regret. I have little doubt about my theory itself or the framework, but just individual grading mistakes within my categories. Here are the players who’s grades look wrong in retrospect:

Andre Drummond

Then:

Physical impact talent: 10

Skill impact talent: 1

Feel for the Game: talent 3

Total grade: 14 (Bench player to Marginal starter talent grade)

Now:

Physical impact talent: 11

Skill impact talent: 5

Feel for the Game talent: 7

Total grade: 23 (Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent grade)

Analysis: My most glaring mistake. I graded Drummond as a Deandre Jordan or Samuel Dalembert, a superior athletic talent who lacked touch and natural instincts. This is simply wrong. One of the keys to Drummond’s great rookie season is fantastic touch around the basket and hands. He’s not a go-to creator in the post and lacks any range, but touch is a valuable skill at the 5. He’s also a smooth player offensively and plays with strong control defensively, understanding positioning well and not just using his athleticism.  Drummond’s talent scores are nearly identical to Dwight Howard’s.

In retrospect, Drummond’s touch and fluidity is evident in a video like this:

I blame my wrong grade of Drummond on not seeing the trees from the forest in regards to Drummond’s lack of college production. It’s why watching videos like the above can be as useful a tool as real games.

Harrison Barnes

Then:

Physical impact talent: 2

Skill impact talent: 8

Feel for the Game talent: 6

Total talent grade: 16 (Marginal Starter talent grade)

Now:

Physical impact talent: 6

Skill impact talent: 7

Feel for the Game talent: 9

Total talent grade: 22 (Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent grade)

Analysis: This was simply a poor job done by me grading. Like Drummond, Barnes’ underwhelming college production colored my grades at the time. With his athleticism and size Barnes never deserved a physical impact grade that low, ballhandling limits his upside as a slasher but he’s still explosive enough to make plays attacking the rim and impact the game defensively physically. I also underplayed his feel for the game, Barnes’ smooth and natural game is what stands out most about him. However Barnes has not been as strong a shooter as I expected, albeit it’s common for rookies to take their time adjusting to the NBA 3pt line. With his athleticism, size, shooting and feel, Barnes’ is a terrific wing prospect with a lot of Luol Deng and Paul George in him.

Damian Lillard

Then:

Physical impact talent: 8

Skill impact talent: 8

Feel for the Game talent: 4

Total talent grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Now:

Physical impact talent: 7

Skill impact talent: 9

Feel for the Game talent: 8

Total talent grade: 24 (Perennial all-star talent grade)

Analysis: Lillard is a stud. He’s athletic enough to explode to the basket and strong enough to finish, is an elite perimeter shooting and creating talent and has a controlled, natural feel for the game. I blame my poor grading on a lack of good Weber St. footage and clips. Part of the reason I game Lillard a poor feel for the game score, is at the time he had been labelled a player with a shooting guard’s vision that may struggle to run an offense. Clearly this was incorrect.

Evan Fournier

Then:

Physical impact talent: 6

Skill impact talent: 4

Feel for the Game talent: 9

Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Now:

Physical impact talent: 6

Skill impact talent: 8

Feel for the Game talent: 11

Total talent grade: 25 (Perennial all-star talent grade)

Analysis: This one I don’t blame myself a ton for. Fournier was not known as a perimeter shooter before the draft, that the one question mark in his game. With the Nuggets he’s been a monster perimeter bomber. Although the sample size is small so far to rely on the numbers alone, his form is obvious. I also underestimated just how incredible Fournier’s feel for the game is. He’s a magician out there, looking a lot like Manu. WIth his ability to attack the basket and shooting stroke, he’s star material and could be signature star the Nuggets lack.

Written by jr.

April 11, 2013 at 1:27 am

2013 NBA Mock Draft (April)

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With the college season over, here is my current mock draft of the 1st round. To get the order for the top 3, I played the ESPN lotto machine:

 
1. Phoenix Suns – PF Nerlens Noel: Reportedly the clear favorite to go 1st. A creative team may look elsewhere, but Phoenix feels like by the book management. Noel immediately becomes the most exciting player and face of the team.

2. Orlando Magic – PG Trey Burke: As I wrote last week, I suspect Rob Hennigan is targeting feel for the game first players which is Burke’s defining trait while filling their need at PG.

3. Charlotte Bobcats – SG Ben McLemore: The Bobcats need offense, Ben provides that at SG and his spacing fits perfectly between Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s penetration game, especially complimenting the latter’s total lack of range.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers – SF Otto Porter: The Cavs’ draft picks scream advanced metrics, for the stat community Porter is a favorite for his rebounding, assists, blocks and steals for a wing. Small forward is also the Cavaliers position of need.

5. Detroit Pistons – SG/SF Victor Oladipo: The Pistons have needed a blue chip SG or SF for years. Oladipo gives them a high potential slasher and defender, both of which they need. The Pistons history is steeped with elite defensive teams, pairing Oladipo and Drummond would likely mean another is coming.

6. New Orleans Hornets – PG Marcus Smart: Greivis Vazquez is a fine point guard, not enough to draft around. Marcus Smart gives the Hornets a high upside, blue chip point guard to be Anthony Davis’ left hook.

7. Sacramento Kings – PF Anthony Bennett: Bennett is a talented power forward, who can stretch the floor beside Demarcus Cousins. The Kings may also make the ill fated decision of trying Bennett at the SF for a few years.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Toronto) – C Alex Len: The fit for the Thunder is getting a long term center to replace Kendrick Perkins. Len gives them offensive and shotblocking upside. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Thunder took an international player like Adetukunbo here strictly to stash them for financial reasons, with a scary luxury tax situation next year.

9. Washington Wizards – SF Shabazz Muhammad: With a backcourt and frontcourt playing well with a healthy John Wall, the Wizards try to fill the 3 spot and upgrade their scoring and spacing with Shabazz.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves – SG Archie Goodwin: Goodwin should gain buzz through the workouts and combine for his amazing athletic tools. He fills a Wolves need for a blue chip SG, although his lack of shooting is a poor fit David Kahn has usually taken “best player available”.

11. Philadelphia 76ers – C Steven Adams: In the wake of the Andrew Bynum shipwreck, Philadelphia grabs a center with high shotblocking and rebounding potential with his amazing physical talents.

12. Portland Trailblazers – PF/C Gorgui Dieng: Portland needs interior defense, with Dieng gives them with his length and intelligence.

13. Dallas Mavericks – PF/C Cody Zeller: The buzz for Cody is fading fast, leaving Dallas to swoop in getting a high end PF/C who can both help Dirk next year, then replace him in the future.

14. Phoenix Suns (from LA Lakers): PF/C Mitch McGary: McGary gives Phoenix a bulkier frontcourt partner beside Noel, who’ll also produce while Noel recovers from his ACL.

15. Milwaukee Bucks – SF Giannis Adetekunbo – Giannis is a high upside small forward, likely the position the Bucks are looking to fill with this spot.

16. Boston Celtics – PF/C Kelly Olynyk: With the Kevin Garnett era winding down, Olynyk gives them upside and spacing at the PF spot.

17. Utah Jazz – PG Michael Carter-Williams: Utah almost has to take a point guard with one of their 2 picks. With Burke rising up the boards, MCW seems an obvious fit.

18. Atlanta Hawks – C Rudy Gobert: The Hawks have been looking for a C to move Al Horford to PF with for years. Gobert is likely to be picked above Withey due to athleticism and length getting favored in the draft.

19. Chicago Bulls – C Jeff Withey: With Joakim Noah’s durability issues and the value Omer Asik had to the Bulls as his backup, Withey steps into the Asik defensive backup role.

20. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston): PF James Michael McAdoo: McAdoo is a high upside PF who fills a need if Josh Smith is on his way out of Atlanta.

21. Utah Jazz (from Golden State): SF Sergey Karasev: Karasev’s high IQ and 3 point shooting ability fits the Jazz, both their team needs and culture.

22. Brooklyn Nets – SG/SF Jamaal Franklin: Brooklyn can use defense and don’t appear to be fans of Marshon Brooks, Franklin can be a useful rotation player.

23. Indiana Pacers – PG/SG CJ McCollum: While George Hill is the starting PG of the future, McCollum fits in nicely in Indiana in a 6th man shooter and scorer, if not starting SG.

24. New York Knicks – PF Mason Plumlee: Mason gives New York some presence inside on the glass, a nice backup for Melo’s stretch game at the 4.

25. Los Angeles Clippers – SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Caldwell-Pope looks like a solid rotation 2 guard with shooting and defensive potential, who can take some of Willie Green and Chauncey Billups’ minutes next year.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Memphis) – SG/SF Reggie Bullock: If they took Goodwin, the Timberwolves would need to fill their need for shooting here. Getting 3pt shooting from the SF would help the Wolves a lot.

27. Denver Nuggets – PF CJ Leslie: Leslie is this year’s Perry Jones III, a super talented PF who’s considered an enigma. His athleticism and feel will be scooped up by someone who plans on sending him to the D League next year.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder – PF/C Isaiah Austin: Another lottery talent falls to the Thunder. Austin’s skill for a 7 footer could pay dividends down the road.

29. San Antonio Spurs – SF/PF Doug McDermott: McDermott is born to be a Spur steal with his IQ and shooting ability.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Miami) – SF Kyle Anderson: Anderson is another favorite of advanced metrics team, as a high upside stat stuffer. Although Porter is the SF of the future, Anderson gives the Cavs depth.

Written by jr.

April 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Basketball, NBA Draft

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Quincy Acy: An underrated, blue chip talent

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Although he hasn’t gotten a ton of burn this season, a prospect my talent grading methodology likes a surprising amount is PF Quincy Acy.

After a strong career at Baylor, Quincy fell to the 2nd round due to his his size at just under 6’8. However, while size is relevant it’s only a piece of the puzzle. What matters is how much a player physically impacts the game. Quincy makes up for his size with a long 7’3 wingspan, in addition outstanding athleticism, with an elite first step and the ability to play above the rim, so much to lead the NCAA in dunks last year. He’s also a respectable ball-handler for a big. This combination of talents allows him to make plays slashing to the basket off the dribble. A concern is Quincy’s rebounding has been unspectacular his rookie season, but only in limited minutes. With his athleticism and solid rebounding history at Baylor, it’s too early to say he lacks rebounding talent. Defensively his size makes him a question mark, but his long wingspan hurts him in the area.

Adding to this, Quincy has an impressive perimeter jumpshot for a 4, with range to just inside the 3 point line. While not a post player, his shooting when added to with excellent touch around the basket, Quincy ranks as a decent skill talent for a 4.

Finally, Quincy’s feel for the game and instinctual base is good for a power forward, showing smoothness and control in his offensive moves.

Here’s a clip of Quincy’s impressive game against the Bucks

At :10 he shows respectable speed, instincts and finishing driving to the rim off a pass and scoring

At :19 he shows a strong first step blowing by a defender and drawing a foul

At :42 he makes a strong athletic play driving past the defense and dunking above the rim

At 1:17 he makes his first NBA 3 – and importantly, as opposed to non-shooting big men who are forced to heave a 3 to beat the shotclock when they make them, Acy’s is with 11 seconds left on the shotclock which shows confidence in his range

At 1:50, he creates a jumpshot off the dribble, both showing perimeter/skill impact ability and showing feel

At 1:57, he adjusts when driving to the rim to account for a defender, a reasonable sign of feel and instincts

Here is a clip from a D League game Acy had recently:

At 0:12 is a very impressive play starting from the mid-post, where he shows both the feel for the game to adjust his shot and his shooting touch

At 0:25 he impressively runs a fastbreak, crossing over a defender and then finding a teammate with the pass. This play shows feel for the game and ballhandling skills, which in the halfcourt helps his slashing upside

At 1:30 he shows an impressive first step and ballhandling ability to get past a defender to the rim, then the feel for the game to be in control driving enough to see a teammate

Another D League game:

At 18:25, he shows his first step and recognition of the defense by driving to the rim

At 44:47 he drives to the rim in a play showing his athleticism and feel for the game

At 45:20, he scores a midrange jumpshot

At 50:15, he shows impressive athleticism finishing above the basket on a putback

At 1:36:51 he dunks off a pass

At 1:39:30 he makes an impressive drive off the dribble, adjusting around the rim – missing the finish, but getting there shows athletic and feel talent

At 2:11:57 he makes a fantastic spin drive to the basket, showing first step, vertical explosiveness and feel

At 2:18:45 he dunks off a pass

At 2:19:15 he uses his first step to drive to the basket, but misses an easy layup

At 2:20:20 he crosses over an opponent and gets to the finish, an impressive more for a big – but misses the finish

My grades for Quincy Acy are:

Physical impact talent: 6 – Acy may not be big, but he makes up for it as a slasher with a great first step, intriguing ballhandling for a big and the explosiveness to play above the rim. How well he finishes in the NBA among traffic will impact whether he can be a dynamic slasher, but for now I will give him an above average grade

Skill impact talent: 7 – Due to his perimeter jumpshot I’m impressed by Acy’s skill game for a 4. With his size a post game is unlikely, but his ballhandling could help him not just hit shots but create them off the dribble.

Feel for the Game: 7 – Acy can look fairly smooth offensively, able to adjust off the dribble and recognize where he is in comparison to teammates. His feel for the game looks to be above average.

Total grade: 20 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

For me a grade of 20 is a starting talent in the NBA. Acy is not spectacular in any area, but the athletic tools to attack the basket off the dribble combined with a perimeter jumpshot, is a rare left hook-right hook combination for PFs in the NBA, especially if for a fluid and feel for the game friendly player. Acy may be able to combo as a small forward in the NBA as well, due to his respectable shooting and ballhandling. The career path for Acy to follow if successful would be David Lee, Carlos Boozer, draft steals for a nice all around combination of athleticism, perimeter skills and feel. Thaddeus Young is also a respectable comparison, a player more athletic than Lee are Boozer and with a similar feel for the game, but less inside and outside skills.

Comparing Acy to the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas is an interesting debate. The opposite of Acy, Valanciunas was the benefactor of the NBA’s height obsession as a 7 foot long C. However Valanciunas lacks Acy’s dynamic athleticism and has a subpar/mechanical feel for the game. While in regards to skill, Valanciunas’ height and touch gives him more post potential, Acy is a more developed perimeter shooter for his position. Under my methodology Acy handily grades as the most talented rookie big on the Raptors.

Written by jr.

April 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Basketball, NBA Draft

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The likely reason the Cavaliers took Tristan Thompson over Jonas Valanciunas

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English: Jonas Valanciunas, member of the Lith...

English: Jonas Valanciunas, member of the Lithuanian Under-19 basketball team, which competed in the 2011 FIBA Under-19 World Championship in Latvia Lietuvių (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The likely reason the Cavaliers took Tristan Thompson over Jonas Valanciunas

A major surprise of the 2011 draft was Tristan Thompson jumping to 4th overall by the Cavaliers. Jonas Valanciunas had been mocked higher throughout the year and conventional wisdsom says filling the C position is more difficult than PF.

Because Jonas had a European team buyout expected to mean a 1 or 2 year wait until he came to the NBA, many speculate this – or either a claim Jonas or his agent Leon Rose speaking out against playing in Cleveland – caused the Cavaliers to waffle at the last moment and pass on Valanciunas for Thompson even if they preferred the former.

I don’t see this a logical explanation. In regards to the buyout, the Cavaliers were years away from expecting to compete and thus immediate production for Jonas wasn’t any more needed than in Toronto. Hard to see why evidence why Jonas wouldn’t want to play in Cleveland either.

There’s a more simple explanation for why they made the pick. It’s no secret that the Cavaliers draft methodology under Chris Grant is advanced metrics heavy. The recent surge of advanced metrics statheads focusing on the draft, is based on this concept – Take all the careers of NBA players, then perform an advanced regression analysis to find which college statistics correlate to NBA success. The more adjustment for NCAA conference and competition, age, or teammates, the better of course. With millions to spend at their disposal, the complexity of the Cavaliers’ regression analysis is likely beyond anything we are able to see publicly on the internet. But if you’re a Cavaliers fan looking for a hint of who they’ll pick, check out http://hoopsanalyst.com, a blog run by a draft stathead who gained attention for predicting Jeremy Lin’s college success. The site is relevant for Cavaliers fans because he ranked Tristan Thompson as the 2nd best prospect in 2011 and Dion Waiters as 2nd best in 2012, behind Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis respectively. The methodology he uses is thus likely to match up well with the Cavaliers’. Because of that site I correctly predicted before the 2012 draft that they Cavaliers would take Waiters 4th over Barnes who had dominated the mocks at that pick, but whom statguys universally hated as a top 10 pick. Another draft site getting attention this year is http://shutupandjam.net/draft-rankings/ , albeit he didn’t have his rankings up last year I believe. John Hollinger for ESPN also posted draft regression studies for years, while his replacement Kevin Pelton recently posted an article comparing his stats to scouting opinions, here http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/PerDiem-130329/nba-shabazz-muhammad-overrated

Tristan Thompson’s high rebounding and block rate and Dion Waiters high assist and steal rate, appears to have played very well with draft studies. However my real reason for posting this article, is why the Cavaliers would be unlikely to trust any of Jonas Valanciunas’ statistics before the NBA.

Yes, Jonas’ combination of rebounding, shotblocking and hyper-efficient finishing is traditionally what regression studies like the above would favor. If he had done it in the NCAA.

In 2010-2011, Jonas played 33 games in the Lithuanian Basketball League (LKL) for Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius, averaging 21:04 minutes averaging 11.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 66.8% FG, which is elite per minute numbers. But from a regression analysis perspective, these minutes and production are unusable due to all but no players crossing over from the LKL to NBA before Jonas, let alone young center prospects. The LKL is not a strong league and without comparable players in his situation and then gone onto the NBA, there’d be no way to knowing whether to trust his production beating up inferior competition.

Lietuvos Rytas played 15 Gs in the Euroleague in Jonas’ draft year, where he averaged 15:25 per game averaging 7.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.7 blks on 70.8% FG, once again elite per minute numbers. While against more trustworthy competition, the problem here is sample size. He plays a total of 231 minutes total, which is just too small of a number to trust as indicative of real quality. Not to mention Jonas’ role playing as an “energy guy” reserve off the bench against opponents unlikely to have gameplanned against him, makes it more difficult to extrapolate his minutes to a full game as star caliber. In comparison, Tristan Thompson played over 1100 minutes his freshman year at Texas and as a featured player which is a far more trustworthy statistical situation.

A similar story is true of international competitions before the 2011 draft, such as the U18 tournament in 2010 where Valanciunas averaged a dominant 19.4 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.7 blks 70% shooting split. However playing approximately 270 minutes in the tournament as well as the relatively low level of competition, makes the information all but useless.

While they may have more future NBA players than the LKL, the sample size of NBA players in the Euroleague and international competitions available to cross-compare in a regression analysis, is still fractional compared to a major NCAA conference’s.

It’s likely the Cavaliers were fans of Jonas’ efficiency and rebounding. But if truly all-in on using advanced metrics and regression analysis to predict draft success, it’s no brainer who’s statistics would be more trusted between Valanciunas and Thompson’s. From a regression analysis perspective, there wouldn’t be enough if any trustworthy statistics from Jonas’ pre-draft career, whether from level of competition or small sample size in leagues and competitions. Jonas’ path to the NBA is literally one of a kind in regards to competition. On the other hand Tristan playing over 1100 minutes in a role as well-treaded as Big 12 freshman power forward, would give the Cavaliers a much larger sample size of comparable players and ability to adjust for context that they needed to make a reliable regression analysis.

Written by jr.

April 6, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Is Eric Gordon destined to be the Pacers’ final piece of the puzzle?

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Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

Once upon a time the Detroit Pistons built a great, defense first core around Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace that needed one more piece to contend for a title. After trading for Rasheed Wallace the rest is history.

The Pacers look like the closest mid-2000s Pistons equivalent since them. The foursome George Hill, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert is devastatingly effective as they crush teams defensively and pick apart with skill and intelligence offensively. None are superstars, but arguably 4 players at an all-star level makes up for it.

But conventional wisdom says, they have the need for (a) Sheed. And the gaping hole is the 2 guard spot where the mediocre Lance Stephenson resides.

If they fall in the playoffs this year, who can be their Sheed acqusition? The available player that jumps out to me is Eric Gordon.

Gordon’s blue chip talent is obvious, but his unhappiness in New Orleans has made his max contract there a disaster. With paltry efficiency this year and unreliable health, the Hornets should not believe in him as a long term piece.

However in Indiana he’s not only going to an elite team, but to his home state and where he played college ball. If there’s any team made to make Gordon happy and motivated again, it’s the Pacers. Whether his production is related to health is another story and on a max contract he’d be a huge risk to take. Another reason Indiana being Gordon’s home state matters, is the Pacers are among the league’s dregs in attendance despite such a great team. Gordon helps the attendance both by being from Indiana and by being a star scorer. Points per game sells players.

While his health, production and contract presents a risk, the upside is no less than an NBA title. Gordon is precisely what the Pacers need in a 2 guard, providing a top scorer beside George who excels at driving to the rim and getting to the line, while being able to hit the outside shot. The lineup of Hill, Gordon, George, West and Hibbert if healthy, is a flawless fit of elite defense, decision making, shooting and post offense. The Pacers somehow getting another blue chip starter on Hill, George, West and Hibbert’s level is just what they need to challenge the Heat in the East and meet their 2004 Pistons destiny.

What could a Gordon acquisition look like? Danny Granger would obviously head out. In New Orleans he’d be an expiring contract who if healthy could help them make a playoff run next year and prove himself worth of a new contract. If Granger is only there for a year, they got out from Gordon’s contract and are free cap-wise to rebuild around Anthony Davis. The Pacers may have to throw in their late 1st round draft pick and/or last year’s 1st Miles Plumlee to sweeten the deal, but those are small prices to pay if they believe in what Gordon can do for their team. The Hornets asking for the talented Stephenson may be harder to swallow for the Pacers, but he’s not an untouchable talent. A 3 team trade with Danny Granger headed to a team more ready to win than New Orleans and the Hornets getting assets back, is also plausible. The Hornets agreeing to a Gordon to Indiana trade would be a hurdle, but a very plausible one.

Long term, Gordon’s contract puts the Pacers in bind with Paul George and David West both likely inking long term deals this year. But if they can build an immediate contending team, those financial hurdles can be a bridge crossed later.

Eric Gordon would present a big risk for the Pacers, but “going for it” with him may be a offer they can’t refuse.

Written by jr.

April 5, 2013 at 2:44 pm