Our exit interview of the 2023 Clippers series continues with Eric Gordon, who the Clippers traded for at the deadline in exchange for John Wall and Luke Kennard along with some pick swaps.
Weight: 215 pounds
Position: Shooting Guard
Years in NBA: 15
Key Regular Season Stats (for Clippers): 11.0 points, 2.1 assists, 1.7 rebounds, 0.6 steals, and 1.0 turnovers in 24.9 minutes per game across 22 games played (11 starts) on 46.3/42.3/84.2 (1.7 FTA attempts) shooting splits (62.9 True Shooting)
Postseason Stats: 10.2 points, 2.6 assists, 1.4 rebounds, 0.6 steals, and 0.8 turnovers in 29.8 minutes per game across 5 games played (all starts) on 40.9/34.5/83.3 (1.2 FTA attempts) shooting splits (54.7 True Shooting)
When the Clippers traded for Eric Gordon mid-season, effectively replacing both Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard, the expectation was that he would be a key bench player for them, replacing those two aforementioned guards’ minutes and freeing up more minutes for Terance Mann and bigger players. With a very long track record in the NBA, there was no mystery with Eric Gordon and what he would offer the 2023 Clippers – high volume, good efficiency three-point shooting with capabilities out to 30 feet, solid effort on defense, and some tertiary ball-handling capabilities.
Like so many things this year for the 2023 Clippers, the Eric Gordon trade did not quite go to plan. Gordon ended up starting the last 16 games of the season for the Clips, including all five playoff appearances, due to Russell Westbrook starting and Paul George’s injury. Gordon was on fire from three in the regular season, hitting 42.3% of his attempts on a decent volume and helping to space the floor, as predicted. However, when you look at his numbers, they look very, very similar to Luke Kennard’s – higher volume scoring, and slightly more free throws, but not a huge difference. Still, Gordon was very helpful in the regular season, especially when Norm Powell was out and he took on the main scoring bench guard role.
In the playoffs, the Clippers had to rely on Gordon even more, as not only was Paul George out, but of course Kawhi Leonard was as well after the first two games. Unfortunately, Gordon was not really able to rise to the occasion, as despite playing five more minutes per game compared to the regular season, his scoring actually went down, as did his efficiency (significantly). It’s hard to blame Gordon, as the entire Clippers’ roster was punching above their weight, and he was also the primary defender on Kevin Durant. Still, it was a bit of a disappointing showing for Gordon, who didn’t contribute much offensively outside of a handful of threes and only got to the line six times across the series.
Overall, as many of us predicted, Gordon was fine for the Clippers. He played hard, his shooting was legitimately valuable on its own merits and because of how it stretched the defense, and he offered at least a bit more rim pressure and ballhandling than Luke Kennard. But the predictions rang true in other ways, which is that he played into Ty Lue’s obsession with guards, resulting in more end-of-season four-guard units. And, while Gordon played his heart out on defense, he was ultimately too small to really bother Durant or Devin Booker in the playoffs. There also wasn’t much additional scoring outside of the three-point shooting, with very few shots at the rim. So, if the Clippers were hoping for a real upgrade in downhill scoring compared to Kennard or even Reggie Jackson, they were disappointed. Eric Gordon is certainly still an NBA rotation player, but was he really the kind of player they should have targeted at the deadline? Probably not.
Future with Clippers
Eric Gordon is an interesting spot, as his $20,917,902 salary for the 2023-2024 season with the Clippers is non-guaranteed up until June 28, when it becomes fully guaranteed. That makes his contract prime trade bait – the Clippers can ship him to a team that wants to clear some room in the knowledge that team can waive him and clear cap space. By doing so, the Clippers themselves could create room, whether by taking back a lot less in salary, or by moving Gordon to a team which has enough room to take him in without sending anything back at all (the Clippers would have to attach some minor assets for this type of move). Lucas already wrote a lot about the cap and second apron stuff, so no need to rehash that in depth, but if the Clippers want to get under that second apron, they basically must get rid of Gordon.
However, there’s no guarantee that the Clippers will move on from Gordon at all. While he didn’t offer much in the way of “juice”, his shooting was still valuable, and he had the trust of Ty Lue from the start. If Ty Lue is back, it’s quite possible that Gordon is as well to provide spacing and shooting around the Kawhi-PG duo. It’s probably most likely that he’s moved due to his contract, the Clippers’ cap situation, and their need to get younger, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he was still on their roster next year.