The Case For Ben Gordon

Zoner pointed out earlier that people should be careful not to go goo-goo for Gordon. I agree with that assessment, but for most Bulls fans Gordon has been more a source of frustration than adoration. Before I get into the merits of his game and whether the Bulls should make a play to sign him this summer, there are some salary cap considerations to consider.

The Bulls will have $63 million dollars on the cap next season if they keep their current roster. Ben Gordon was looking for a 6-year, $60 million deal last summer. Assuming the deal was backloaded as these deals tend to be, the Bulls would need to clear about $10 million under the cap to make some kind of offer for Gordon. It is unclear what kind of offers he will be getting from other teams, however. The one contract that would have to be moved to get that kind of space is Hinrich’s contract. The problem is, there is almost no way under the current CBA that the Bulls could move enough salary and not take a lot back to clear enough space.

Assuming Paxson pulls some kind of GM magic and clears enough space to make a play for BG7, would we even want Gordon on the team? That is the question we are here to answer. The common consensus is that Ben Gordon is an excellent shooter who can create his shot, but he turns over the ball far too much and doesn’t like to pass. On defense he is thought of as undersized and a huge liability. The overall feeling is that his defense and turnovers make him not worth any offense that he provides. Is that an accurate assessment, however? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

We all know that Gordon averages 20+ points per game and shoots a very good percentage for a shooting guard. But what about his overall contribution to his team? According to Hollinger’s PER rankings, he rates a 17.49. That number might not mean much to most in a vacuum, but it is actually good for 12th best among shooting guards in the league. Is anyone the Bulls get to replace Gordon going to be better than that in terms of contributing to wins? I don’t think the Bulls have a real shot at any of the 11 people in front of him, which consists of Wade, Bryant, Roy, Ginobili, Carter, Barbosa, Martin, Redd, Johnson, Allen, and Iguodala. The Bulls are not going to get any of those guys, so in terms of getting a player that is better than Gordon, there are no real options out there that are available.

What PER does not take account of very well, however, is defensive abilities outside of steals and blocks. While most people feel that Ben Gordon is ineffective defensively based on his size and how badly burned he has been in the past, the reality of the story is that he has come a long way. He is by no means one of the elite defenders at his position, but he is only slightly below average. He has improved greatly at staying in front of his man on the perimeter and he doesn’t get muscled around as much as he used to.

People are hard on BG because he drives them nuts with his turnovers and his defensive liability due to his size. Ben Gordon cannot be the guy who is expected to cover the bigger stronger guards on other teams, he needs a big strong defensive-minded guard to play next to him to handle that. Therein lies the problem, however. When it looked like Hinrich was the future at point guard, tough defensive assignments could be given to Kirk, while Gordon could cover the smaller guard and his so-so defense wouldn’t be exposed. This would allow the Bulls to take advantage of his ability to score while covering up his deficiencies on the defensive end. That has all changed with the arrival of Derrick Rose, however. Rose has been awful on defense so far, but he will probably improve as he adjusts to the league. That being said, he will never be the defensive guard that the Bulls need next to Gordon. Look at the Heat last night for instance; Gordon was forced to cover Wade and he was manhandled.

So what is the conclusion? If we could get Gordon for a discount and had the cap room to sign him, I would say why not. With Rose being the future of the franchise, money being tight, and Gordon’s inflated sense of self-importance and worth, resigning Gordon to a long-term deal seems impossible and probably a bad idea in general.

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