Eric Gordon fractured his ring finger for a second time on Saturday against the Utah Jazz. In the immediate aftermath the New Orleans Pelicans seemed resigned to this injury ending Gordon's season. As Oleh wrote that game, it could be the last time we see Gordon in a Pelicans uniform. It was really too bad to see as Gordon had played well, at least on offense, since returning from his first finger fracture. In four games Gordon averaged 18.8 points, 2.8 assists, and 2.8 rebounds while posting an impressive .510/.480/.917 slash line and a 22.2 PER.
Last night during the Sacramento Kings game Jen Hale reported that Gordon was in Los Angeles seeking a second opinion if the injury would require surgery. This morning Scott Agness, play-by-play announcer for the Indiana Pacers, reported that Gordon would indeed undergo surgery today.
Source said that Pelicans’ G Eric Gordon, who suffered a broken right ring finger for the 2nd time this yr, is having surgery this AM in LA.— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) March 8, 2016
If this surgery does put Gordon out for the remainder of the season the Pelicans should be eligible to apply for the hardship exception. The hardship exception is explained by Larry Coon on the CBA FAQ.
Teams temporarily can have four players on their Inactive List (bringing their roster size to 16) with league approval in the event of a hardship.
A hardship can be deemed to exist when a team has four players who are sick or injured and have missed at least three games, and will continue to be unable to play. If a hardship is granted, the hardship ends when one of the sick or injured players is physically able to resume playing. The team must then release player(s) to get back to the roster limit, although teams have the option to retain the hardship player and release a different player to get back to the limit.
Gordon, if he is done for the season, will join Quincy Pondexter (knee), Tyreke Evans (knee), and Bryce Dejean-Jones (wrist) on the shelf. Alexis Ajinca (sternum) might also be done for the year and has missed three consecutive games. Both necessary qualifications (four players have missed three games, expected to continue to be unable to play) were achieved last night.
EDIT: Speak of the Devil
SOURCES: #Pelicans have received another injury hardship exception and will be able to add a player to the roster.— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) March 8, 2016
That 16th roster spot is valuable. Dell Demps and the Pelicans front office, once the hardship is applied for and approved, will be able to bring in a young player on 10-day contract without waiving any current players.
Who might the Pelicans target?
This step is a little more difficult. The Pelicans only have three "guards" in Jrue Holiday, Norris Cole, and Toney Douglas. If Ajinca is done for the season there are also only two centers in Omer Asik and Kendrick Perkins. Either an additional guard (to continue to manage the load Jrue Holiday is carrying) or another big man (to protect franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis) makes sense in the short term.
Long term is slightly more clear. It is unlikely Norris Cole is on this roster beyond this season. While Ajinca and Asik could be traded, both are on long term deals and could also be retained. So, what guards are available right now?
Ray McCallum was waived on February 29th and has yet to be claimed. Nico Baguio wrote at the time that the Pelicans would do well to go after 24 year old guard.
Pickings get slim quick beyond McCallum. The top D-League prospect is former Pelican Russ Smith, who was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies last January to acquire Quincy Pondexter. Tim Frazier, recently waived by the Portland Trail Blazers, is putting up ridiculous numbers (16.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 9.6 assists) in the D-League but has struggled in two seasons at the NBA level. Both Smith and Frazier are in their mid-20's as well. Not exactly "high upside" players.
Erick Green and Quinn Cook are other guards stateside the Pelicans could take a look at. Green is one of the highest scorers in the D-League, averaging 27.1 points a game while shooting 46% behind the arc. Green played through two 10-day contracts with the Utah Jazz this season but logged just 35 minutes.
Cook is a better distributor and younger (soon to turn 23); averaging 20.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in his rookie season in the D-League. Cook was originally recruited to Duke in the same class as former Pelican Austin Rivers. After his sophomore and junior seasons playing primarily as a point guard Cook shifted off the ball his senior year for Tyus Jones. The freshman trio of Jahlil Okafor, Justice Winslow, and Jones all went in the first round of the 2015 draft while Cook went undrafted.
Ranking those five guards I would have Ray McCallum first followed by Quinn Cook, Tim Frazier, Erick Green, and then Russ Smith. I just don't think Smith coming back to the Pelicans organization is realistic. McCallum has demonstrated an ability to stick in the NBA that none of the others have reached at this point. Cook, the youngest of the bunch, intrigues me thanks to his efficiency beyond the arc at Duke and in the D-League.
Who do you like? Have another prospect in mind? Let's hear it in the comments.