If there is one thing that the current Phoenix Suns roster lacks, it is a go-to scorer.
Currently, Goran Dragic is the team's leading scorer, but even he only averages 14.7 points per game. In fact, Dragic has topped 30 points in just two games this season, and while he has enjoyed some success as the team's primary offensive option, being a pure scorer just isn't in his nature.
Even though the Suns do desperately need a franchise player, finding one isn't so easy. There are a few decent players in the upcoming 2013 draft, but in all likelihood there will only be one or two true stars. And as for free agency, the Suns are out of luck again, as Monta Ellis and Tyreke Evans are probably the two best wing options for the Suns.
For those who are unaware, the Suns signed the former Indiana Hoosier to a max contract offer sheet back in July, but Gordon was a restricted free agent and the New Orleans Hornets ultimately matched the offer.
Now, after a mediocre season with New Orleans, the promising shooting guard is wearing out his welcome and the Hornets in turn appear ready to move on. Gordon has played in just 37 games this season, mainly because of a right knee injury. He is averaging 16.5 points and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field, which is a career-low shooting percentage.
And now Gordon was reportedly benched following a shouting match with New Orleans head coach Monty Williams.
The Hornets are fed up with Gordon, and they will listen to trade offers this summer. And now that the 24-year-old is once again available, the Suns should pounce on the opportunity.
Gordon's trade value will be very low right now, partially because of his injury history. He missed 57 games last season with a right knee injury and another 29 games now in 2012-2013 for the same issue. Gordon also had one other serious injury in January of 2011, when he suffered a right wrist bone chip fracture and missed 18 games.
But the injury history should not be too concerning to the Suns. Phoenix is constantly praised for its training staff, which has been credited with extending the careers of players such as Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Redd and most recently Jermaine O'Neal. Some of those players looked washed up and hopeless when they came to Phoenix, but all five were able to be productive for the team in the time that they played there.
The other reason, of course, for Gordon's drop in value is his poor performance this season. While 16.5 points and 3.2 assists per game is not necessarily bad, it certainly is not what you would expect from a player with a max contract.
That contract may very well come back to bite the Suns. Phoenix was originally the team that offered Gordon $58 million over four years, and they forced New Orleans to match in order to retain their star player. Now, if the Suns make a trade, they could be stuck with an unwieldy, cumbersome contract that will haunt them if Gordon fails to stay healthy.
But, at the same time, Gordon has just too much potential and talent to not take the risk.
Unfortunately, that may sound like the same thing someone could say about a talent like Michael Beasley. And, it is true, sometimes these acquisitions are complete failures. But for rebuilding teams, making bold moves and taking these risks is often necessary for the team to once again play at a competitive level.
The fact of the matter remains that before coming to New Orleans, Gordon looked like one of the most promising shooting guards in the league.
In the 2010-2011 season, he averaged 22.3 points, 4.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game, while shooting 45 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the arc. At 6'3", Gordon is undersized for a 2-guard, but he makes up for it with great quickness that allows him to get by his defender and drive to the rim while absorbing contract from the defender.
Gordon also has a good outside game, and he has shot 37 percent from the three-point line for his career. He isn't a terrific shooter, but he works well in off-the-ball situations, getting open for kick-out passes from a playmaker.
A Dragic-Gordon pairing in the backcourt would be an explosive one that the Suns could build around for years to come. Gordon may not be the definition of a "franchise player," but if the Suns do not pull the trigger on a deal now, they may have to wait several years to find one. Maybe they'll have a chance in the 2014 draft at getting a superstar prospect like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, but it's hard to believe that the Suns would actually have such a disastrous season next year to be in a position to own a top pick.
The only question is, what would the Hornets want for Gordon?
New Orleans will definitely build their team around Anthony Davis, and Greivis Vasquez has been fantastic all season long as well. However, Robin Lopez is nothing special at center (and it's doubtful the Hornets will commit to him), and Al Farouq-Aminu isn't having a great season either.
Perhaps the Suns can center their trade proposal around Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley. Despite the fact that he has regressed since playing with Steve Nash, Gortat is still an above-average center, and he could do well if paired with a point guard like Vasquez. Dudley would not have to start for the Hornets, but he would be a valuable threat from beyond the perimeter and plays solid defense as well.
And since the Hornets are a rebuilding team too, maybe a draft pick would have to be involved. The Suns may acquire a lottery pick from the Los Angeles Lakers this season, or they could offer a future first-rounder either from Phoenix, Los Angeles or Memphis within the next few years.
As long as the Hornets' demands are reasonable, the Suns should explore Eric Gordon as a potential franchise cornerstone this summer. Even with all of the risks, acquiring a young player who can potentially be a top-five shooting guard in the league and score 25 points per game will put the Suns one step further along the path back to the playoffs.
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