Since returning to the New Orleans Hornets lineup on Dec. 29, Eric Gordon has been limited to 25 minutes in each of the last two contests. Monty Williams is taking it slow when it comes to getting his best offensive weapon back into the swing of things.
On Wednesday, the coach chose to rest Gordon rather than playing him for the second night in a row of a back-to-back. The former Indiana University standout is a key piece of the Hornets effort to recover from losing Chris Paul, the center piece of the trade that convinced New Orleans to allow Paul to leave.
Since joining the Hornets a little more than a calendar year ago, Gordon has played just 11 games and has experienced his share of drama with the organization. After accepting an offer from Phoenix last summer, Gordon made it pretty clear that he wasn’t happy with the way the Hornets viewed him and stated in a press conference that he had every intention of heading to the Suns.
Despite his words, the Hornets matched Phoenix’s offer and locked up Gordon’s services for the foreseeable future. It didn’t suit the player’s desires and an extended period on the training table with what was called a bone bruise in his saw aggravations turn to harsh words as Williams doubted the legitimacy of the injury. Now, he returns to the lineup and can finally show fans in the Big Easy why the franchise wants to rebuild its roster around him and No.1 overall pick Anthony Davis.
In his first game back, Gordon helped the Hornets pick up just their seventh win of the season with 24 points and 7 assists as they beat Charlotte in a tense 98-95 affair. In his second game, Gordon was less effective scoring just 11 points and 3 assists, but his presence in the lineup provides a weapon that other teams have to be conscious of. Gordon brings some important attributes to the Hornets that without him, they struggle to replace.
The Hornets have struggled to get to the line this season ranking 21st overall in the league in free throws attempted. In his first game back, Gordon displayed remarkable aggressiveness getting to the line 14 times for an additional 12 points. That sort of play is something the Hornets need, but with a limited number of elite athletes in their lineup it’s something they haven’t been able to find.
The Hornets have a decent blend at present with Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez providing big bodies that can grab rebounds and points in the paint, a good outside shooter in Ryan Anderson and a solid passer in Greivis Vasquez to lead the offense, but what they have lacked is a real playmaking presence to provide a reliable go-to guy when the team needs a bucket.
With Gordon, the Hornets get a career 45% shooter who averages around 18 points per game and knows how to get a basket. His presence isn’t going to quickly turn them into a contender, but at the very least, it helps address some of the problems the Hornets have getting the ball in the basket as the second worst offense in the league.
While Vasquez is a solid player offensively, he doesn’t bring much to the Hornets back court defense averaging 0.6 steals per game. Gordon on the other hand is a much more solid defender having averaged over a steal per game for his career. The Hornets are second to last in the league in steals, but don’t give up a lot of points at just over 97 per game. If they can improve on their second worst in the league ability to force turnovers even a little bit, they’ll improve their chances of competing on a nightly basis.
Gordon isn’t what most would consider a franchise player, but due to what he’s being paid, he’ll have to become one. As he shakes off the rust and makes his way back into the Hornets lineup, look for them to improve in these areas. If they don’t, it may be worth their time to consider what they could get back in a trade.