New Orleans is not a good basketball team without Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson. If the 3-6 start to the season did not prove the value of Anderson, then surely the current five game losing streak has to everyone. The team lacks spacing on offense and is terrible on defense with any combination of players, injured or healthy on the floor. The Pelicans can win by simply outgunning opponents, and now go into competition lacking the Arsenal necessary to challenge their opponents firepower. This season is likely lost.
The fortunes of other teams around the league have also played out much differently than anticipated. Two teams I will focus on are the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, teams headed in dramatically different directions. The prevailing opinion of the Bucks were that they had signed up for another round of NBA purgatory coming into the season. Zach Lowe places Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Morass before a game was played; that hopeless place beyond contention but out of reach for the superstars at the top of the lottery. In that same article, Lowe had this to say about the Phoenix Suns.
They're playing for draft picks and cap room. Everyone's available, save perhaps for Eric Bledsoe and the rookies, as Ryan McDonough, the team's new GM, finishes purging the bad deals he inherited and setting Phoenix up for the future. Watching Bledsoe–Goran Dragic lineups will be fun, and it's nice to have Channing Frye back raining triples. Kendall Marshall is playing for his career, already.
Checking in with the Milwaukee Bucks now, their worst fears have been realized. The team currently is the worst in the NBA at 7-29, sporting an equally terrible -8.4 point differential. In addition, their enigmatic center has struggled both on and off the court throughout the season. Sanders was involved in a bar fight on November 3rd that was responsible for a torn ligament in his thumb. Consequently, he has appeared in only 11 games in his first season after signing a 4 year, $44 Million extension. Lowe wraps it up this morning:
If you had asked MIL front office to imagine a nightmare scenario for Larry Sanders post-extension, it wouldn't have been as bad as this.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) January 12, 2014
Phoenix, on the other hand, is currently sitting in 7th place of the Western Conference at 21-15. Yet, the team has potentially four first round draft picks this summer and a boat load of cap space. The Morris twins have been a revelation, Eric Bledsoe has been a terror and Miles Plumlee (Plumdog according to Suns announcers) has been more than serviceable at center with Alex Len waiting in the wings. SBNation's Paul Flannery focuses on the Suns in his Sunday Shootaround. Of particular interest to Pelican fans is this passage:
"It doesn’t really change the long-term plan," McDonough told SB Nation. "If we can find a guy who’s younger, in their early to mid 20s that fits in well with the rest of our group and can help us in the short and long term, then we’ll do that. We’re not going to bring in veteran guys just for the sake of trading for them. That wouldn’t make any sense for us. We’re going to keep adding players that are similar in age to the rest of our group, and if they can help us now and in the future that’s great. If not, I think we have enough talent on the roster to win some games."
So Milwaukee is in a nightmare scenario with their defensive-minded center and Phoenix is still looking for players in their early to mid 20s to play an up-and-down style under head coach Jeff Hornacek? I think New Orleans can help!
Trade Machine Fun!
This is only a test of the trade machine warning. Please understand that the staff at The Bird Writes simply throws stuff at a wall and sees if it sticks. This is so far down the totem pole it lies below "trade rumors". This is only a test.
We know that Phoenix, as recently as 18 months ago, coveted Eric Gordon. So much so, they offered him a max contract. As recently as this past July, SBNation sister site Bright Side of the Sun was gauging interest in acquiring Gordon. The Suns currently possess four potential first round draft picks according to RealGM.com; their own, Minnesota's (protected 1-13), Washington's (protected 1-12), and Indiana's (protected 1-14).
Milwaukee, on the other hand, only owns their own first round draft pick. Thanks to the high potential that pick lands in the top three and the impending $11 Million a year extension of Larry Sanders, they will not have a great deal of financial flexibility in the future. These things matter when your owner is looking to sell the franchise to anyone willing to keep it in Milwaukee. Finding a way to cut future salary while increasing the potential for growth is critical to transferring a franchise. This is a something that New Orleans knows all too well.
Add to this trade some kind of "the lowest pick of Phoenix, Minnesota, or Washington" from Phoenix and I think Milwaukee has to think long and hard about their position. They are able to open up financial flexibility, add an additional mid-first round draft pick, and jettison a problem child. Phoenix gets Eric Gordon (McDonough wants a player in his mid-20's -- Gordon just turned 25) for an expiring contract and one first round pick they wanted to trade anyway, leveraging their future cap space into an actual asset. New Orleans takes on a big potential headache but the opportunity to field the kind of defense Monty Williams dreams of, gets Gordon to where he has wanted to be (hopefully with a training staff that can keep him healthy) while ridding themselves of a large financial weight.
Below I welcome and encourage additional opinions on potential trade partners for Eric Gordon. I want everyone to know that for me personally I would not trade him, I think he is rounding into form and showing flashes of what he is capable of while still battling to get to 100%. Other options I have seen on Twitter focus on moving Gordon to Charlotte. I would not even begin this exercise if it were not for reports Gordon is on the trading block.