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Aaron Gordon could be that all-star talent missing from the Anthony Davis trade for David Griffin

If the New Orleans Pelicans truly want to field a more competitive team, there’s one underrated player who makes a lot of sense.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Anthony Davis trade is finally over, but while the vast majority is eagerly awaiting this week’s NBA draft on Thursday, the New Orleans Pelicans have important questions to answer and plenty of work to do.

Most of that work will seemingly revolve around the acquisition of the Los Angeles Lakers fourth overall pick. With the Pelicans core now expected to consist of Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and phenom Zion Williamson, will the organization seek to add another highly touted rookie to that equation? Or look to trade it?

At four, would they seek to draft a Jarrett Culver or De’Andre Hunter and groom him alongside Zion, another incoming rookie? Or would they package Ball or Ingram and this pick to a place like Washington in exchange for Bradley Beal?

The questions that are being posed paint a picture that speculates the Pels on having to choose a side. Rebuilding with loads of youth, or looking to speed up the process by making a splash acquisition with a young veteran ready to win now.

Maybe there’s a way to do both, but with the conversation open about a commitment to a 29-year-old Jrue Holiday as the face of the franchise, rebuilding with additional highly ranked rookies not named Zion doesn’t seem as though it’s in the cards.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans
Drafting two rookies after an Anthony Davis trade doesn’t sound likely if there’s a commitment to the 29 year old Holiday.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

David Griffin early in his role as the executive VP of basketball operations created whispers of what type of package he wanted in return for Anthony Davis. That package was reportedly a current all-star player, a young player with all-star potential, and two first round picks. New Orleans got the draft picks (in quite the creative manner) and they received two young players with future all-star potential, but there’s only one thing still missing.

Acquiring a current all-star was always going to take a facilitating move considering the teams in play. Los Angeles point blank had zero to offer outside of LeBron James. Boston had former All-Stars available in Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, but between injuries, age, and their contracts, the Pelicans were wise to look elsewhere — especially with Jayson Tatum not being on the table according to reports.

That leaves New Orleans with the fourth overall pick and a lot of other assets to dangle as bait to get the player they desire. Bradley Beal is arguably the most popular name on the board in the rumor mill, but the uncertainty of a Washington asking price creates a fog over that possibility among other variables. Even if Holiday is only apart of the Pelicans plans for the near future, wouldn’t it make sense to appease his repeated communicated wishes about playing the shooting guard position?

The Pelicans have also been rumored to be high on Lonzo Ball and they do need a point guard. Would they trade him without seeing him play a single minute in NOLA?

And if it’s Brandon Ingram to be moved instead, how can we expect to see the best from Ball, Beal, and Holiday, in an offensive system predicated more on pace than ball movement? How would they all stay happy, and aggressive?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Washington Wizards
How well could Bradley Beal work in New Orleans?
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

In my eyes, this sure sounds like Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and...Jrue Holiday at first glance. Better basketball IQ would be in play here, and the same can be said for injury luck, god willing. In the end, however, it just seems like too many on ball needs, and that’s without mentioning Zion, who needs to be the biggest focus in this entire equation.

All three don’t need the ball to succeed, but they’re at their best when they have it. History doesn’t give you many examples of a trio built as such and having great long term success. Beal helps with spacing and would provide another dynamic scorer and playmaker on the floor, but is he worth interrupting your defensive potential?

There are other names, ranging from D’Angelo Russell to Myles Turner to CJ McCollum, that also make sense on some levels and possibly even work better as that all-star caliber player/talent. But they all involve a change in what New Orleans currently has, or a previous dilemma that’s already been mentioned.

So, how does one improve the team without sacrificing the current scope of things? Gain an all-star talent that can slide right into a starting role in New Orleans!

Insert Aaron Gordon.

The trade:

What it does for New Orleans:

Adds an all-star talent capable of fitting in without stepping on anyone’s toes.

What it does for Orlando:

Gives the opportunity to get out from underneath Gordon’s contract and into a new rebuild revolving Markelle Fultz, Mo Bamba, Jonathan Issac, and the number 4 overall pick.

Aaron Gordon sounds too much like Eric Gordon for most New Orleans fans to like the things that I’m about to say. But if the process must be sped up, 23-year-old Aaron Gordon fits the bill in a lot of ways. Just because one Gordon didn’t work, doesn’t mean we can’t try again.

Offensively, Gordon is an athletic force of nature that you may remember from his days in the slam dunk contest.

Spending time between both forward positions, Gordon has struggled with consistency in finding his role on a basketball floor — when leaping and finishing at the rim isn’t the task. But over the past two seasons, he’s developed a willingness out of the post and shown improvement as a long-range shooter.

A full time switch to power forward or even center in some splits could finally complete the Aaron Gordon puzzle. Alvin Gentry’s up and down system could also help to further that vision.

Gordon’s strengths revolve around his ability to attack closeouts, run the floor on fastbreaks, cut on backdoor sets, and be a respectable threat from deep, depending where he’s standing. He’s also retooled his ball handling skills, making him a threat off the dribble against defenses scrambling to get back.

He’s also a high rise finisher as the roll man diving to the basket.

Lob City part two anybody?

The biggest concern with a Gordon trade would be what position he plays and if he can help at all from a spacing perspective. You may end up considering him a center or a power forward in the end, but a Ball-Holiday-Ingram-Williamson-Gordon lineup will feature so much flexibility, we’ll truly be able to throw that aspect away. This is one of the caveats you attain in drafting a talent like Zion Williamson.

However the positions may fall, Gordon provides a player that doesn’t disrupt the ball handling and opportunities of those around him on offense (59 percent of his baskets were from assists last season). Defensively, his presence would allow to almost switch anything desired.

Orlando Magic v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When initially looking at Gordon’s three-point percentage the past two seasons, you see a guy who shot 33 and 35 percent. Not terrible but not great either. When you look deeper, however, there are more to those percentages.

Gordon improved his three-point shooting in 2019 from 22-24 feet from 35 percent the year prior, to 39 percent, a much deadlier efficiency. The 25-foot shot attempts is what has caused him the most trouble the past two seasons as Gordon shot 32 and 33 percent over that time span. Additionally, Gordon has a tendency to dribble his way into low percentage pull-up or step back threes that he simply hasn’t mastered yet.

When looking at where he is best utilized as a deep range threat, the corners immediately jump off the page. Gordon shot a combined 39 percent from the corners in 2019, and 47 percent from the right side.

This would provide a remedy for whichever New Orleans ball handler is looking to drive. Gordon’s defender must respect his ability to cut or knock down the shot in comfort, whether he’s set or on the move.

Defensively, Gordon isn’t the quickest laterally so seeing him create more turnovers is the ticket, or as I’ve alluded to, guarding larger players. His communication off the ball and within transitions could also stand to improve.

When he’s challenged on the ball, Gordon can make life difficult for even the most talented of scorers. Watch him stop and start, take opposing contact while keeping his hands off, before finally contesting the shot.

Another interesting factoid about Gordon’s defense is his efficiency rating from last season. Among all players that averaged at least 30 minutes while playing in 60 or more games, Gordon finished tied for 15th in defensive rating at 105.1 — his highest mark since his second season when he played just over 23 minutes a game.

Still a few years away from his prime, Aaron Gordon is yet to scratch the surface of what he can do on a basketball floor. New Orleans would present him the opportunity to reach that potential with several other tantalizing talents without the pressure of being the guy drafted and later paid to lift a franchise. Gordon wouldn’t be “the” answer, he’d simply be apart of a young and fun equation.

One last thing to remember, Gordon is not an All-Star yet, but there simply aren’t many available with which the 4th pick will be able to land without struggle. The Pels could be bluffing about their feelings on their recently acquired assets. They could also be headstrong on their journey in adding a player like Russell or Beal. Hell, after the trade they just pulled off, they may deserve it. But this time and for their next deal, less could indeed mean more.