Indiana Pacers Offseason: Is Eric Gordon Worth the Risk?

[From the Fan Posts, dbcb asks a major offseason question. Plenty of reasons to assume the Pacers would like to land EJ, but his status as a restricted free agent may make the effort moot. Still, what do you think? - TL]

To start, let's leave the financial mumbo jumbo out of this for the most part. Let's just go into this thinking it would take a near max contract in some way, shape, or form to get him and maybe a player or two. Try to keep the conversation focused mostly on the basketball.

One of the huge problems with our team as it is currently constructed is that we don't have a single player who we can throw the ball too and say, "Score." Our best player, Granger, can't go left, is mostly a jump shooter, and is consistently shooting in the low 40% range. Our prize big man, Hibbert, is terrible at getting and holding position, seems to be easily neutralized by fronting, and is still very, very inconsistent. Our "please god turn into Tracy McGrady" youngin, George, has an iffy handle and seems to lose confidence on the offensive end. And without an all-star point guard to get our guys easy shots, we go through stretches in the game where scoring the basketball get really hard against good teams.

Insert the hometown boy: Eric Gordon

The Reward:

The reward is simple: near 20 ppg with 3-4 apg, on 45% shooting, 37% from 3, 80% FT, while getting to line over 5 times a game. Gordon can bump the trey, or fly to the basket with reckless abandon and throw it down or rack up fouls or both. Who on our team could do this?

And that wasn't a fluke:

Gordon gives us that guy we give the ball to at the top of the key, set a pick for him, and scares shit out of the defense. He gives us someone to actually evolve the offense around. We played two teams in the playoffs who had no shot blocking presence in the lane. They started Baby Davis and Anderson or Anthony and Battier/Turiaf/Pitman for christ sake. And how many times did we have anyone fly through the lane and take advantage of that? Gordon would have feasted on their souls.

On top of his offense, he fits the Pacer's franchise model perfectly. He is a good kid. He is young and can grow with George and Hibbert. He is a hometown product. And he is a solid defender and a great team mate.

No matter how fun it is to say, "The Pacers are a great TEAM" and walk around saying how a great team with no star can beat a team with nothing but stars and get all kumbaya blah blah blah... this league is a league of stars. Stars win you division titles. Stars get you in the Eastern Conference Finals. Stars get you to the Finals. Stars win you championships. And the Pacer's don't have a star. Gordon could be that guy. The dream of pairing him up with hard working, developing players in Hibbert and George + role players is enticing.


The Risk:

... he can also 100% destroy the franchise for however long his contract is.

Gordon can't stay on the court and it seems to be getting worse. He is only 23 years old yet is missing games like he is 43. His first year he played 95% of the games; year two, 75%; year three, 68%, and year four, 14%. In four years he has missed 107 games. He missed games due to his wrist, his knee, and his back. And once again, he is 23. He is in his prime athletically. He didn't play a lot of college ball. He shouldn't be falling apart like this.

If he comes to the small market Pacers and continues to miss 50% of the games, it would kill us. Remember what it was like to have Jermaine O'neal get hurt constantly after giving him a monster contract (Thanks infinity for jogging my memory)? We aren't New York or LA or Miami... we wont' survive sinking money into something that doesn't produce. We won't pay the luxury tax, so we will be stuck with a team built around a player who is only on the court half of the time. We would be locked into a team whose whole season depended on whether their constantly injured star can stay on the court or not. Because a team featuring Hibbert + Granger/George with no Gordon (I am assuming we will resign Hibbert to a huge contract and then keeping Granger or George with large contracts as well. Don't think we could keep them all and sign Gordon...) and a bunch of role players (remember, we won't be going into tax land. These would be cheap role players) is not getting home court advantage in the Eastern Conference.

And although he does fit our needs and is a really good player, is all the money and players and injury prone history worth someone who isn't a top 10 player? Is he a top 20 player?

So... what say you IC Nation... is Eric Gordon worth the risk?

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