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Player Report: Ben Gordon

Role

Gordon is Detroit’s sixth man, but he should play close to the minutes of a starter. He’s owed more money than anyone else on the team. You don’t sign someone for so much money to play him like a backup.

Scouting report

Will: Score.

Gordon can shoot from the outside and mid-range. He can drive to the basket and get to the line. He makes easy shots, and he makes tough shots.

In many ways, Gordon is just a role player, and his role is scoring.

As note previously, just eight players scored more with a higher true shooting percentage than Gordo last season:

  • Dwyane Wade
  • LeBron James
  • Danny Granger
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kevin Martin
  • Chris Paul
  • Brandon Roy
  • Amar’e Stoudemire

When he’s healthy, Gordon will prove he belongs among the league’s elite scorers.

Won’t: defend.

I talked with Matt McHale of By the Horns (more from him later) a little bit before the season about Gordon’s defense. Matt said if Gordon is around good defenders, he won’t be a liability. Gordon just doesn’t have the size or instincts to be a good defender – no matter how hard he tries (and he does try).

Basically, Matt told me not to waste time figuring out how Gordon can become a better defender. It’s not happening.

That reminded me a lot of Richard Hamilton, who was probably the weakest defender in the Pistons’ recent-glory-days starting lineup. But Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Chauncey Billups didn’t really have to cover for him. Around those guys, he could hold his own.

So, even though Gordon won’t ever be a good defender, I’m encouraged for a few reasons.

1. Playing with Rodney Stuckey should allow Gordon to cover more point guards, who will probably be a better matchup for him.

2. Gordon has a 6-foot-8.5 wingspan, which should help make up his lack of lateral quickness.

3. With Gordon’s top-end scoring ability, it makes sense for the Pistons to surround him with good defenders in the long run, anyway. It’s nice to know he won’t cripple their defensive efforts.

Must improve: playmaking.

In the short term, it would be great if Ben Gordon could play some point guard, so he can play minutes with Richard Hamilton. This is especially important if Will Bynum remains out with an injury.

But the long term is much more significant here. Unless the plan has changed, Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey are the Pistons’ backcourt of the future.

As we’ve learned, Stuckey plays best when he spends some time off the ball. For Stuckey to do that, Gordon will have to play some point guard.

Gordon has talked about a desire to be more a playmaker, so I don’t think he’s just stuck on scoring. But he still needs to show he can be one.

Stock

Falling

With his injuries and lack of production so far, Joe Dumars has taken a lot of heat for signing Gordon. Gordon has only played 25 games with the Pistons, so this could easily change. But the early returns have been poor.

Three predictions

1. Gordon will lead the Pistons in scoring next season and several straight after that.

Since arriving in Detroit, Richard Hamilton has led the Pistons in points per game for seven straight seasons. He’s leading again this year, and I think he’ll hold on.

But I think he passes the torch to Gordon next year. Gordon will have a lengthy streak of his own, but I don’t think he passes Hamilton’s – whether it ends at seven or eight.

2. Gordon will be the Piston to make an All-Star team.

Ben Wallace might deserve to go this year, but playing strong defense on a bad team doesn’t usually garner an All-Star berth.

Gordon will develop the stats and recognition to become an All-Star. As I wrote above, Gordon might be just a role player. But his role, scoring, is the most noticed.

3. This season will be Gordon’s worst as a Piston.

He’s suffered multiple injuries and just hasn’t gotten into a rhythm yet this year. He’s only 26, so I think his best years are ahead of him. And there’s a decent chance Richard Hamilton isn’t a Piston next year.

Add all that up, and Gordon has plenty of room to go up.

In other words

Matt McHale of By the Horns sent this great analysis:

“Here’s the thing about Ben Gordon: He will always go balls to the wall (or all out, if you want to put it cleanly) at what he does best: scoring. Having a player who can give you 20 PPG, no matter what, is quite an asset, especially when that guy knocks down 40+ percent of his treys. He also can drill clutch shots, and he’s never afraid to take them. Ben’s not quite Reggie Miller in that respect, but he’s closer than you might think. (It would probably help if he got more chances to make waves in the playoffs.)

His weaknesses are in the following areas: ball-handling, playmaking and defense. Basically, everything else (other than scoring) that you want from a shooting guard. It’s not that Ben doesn’t try on defense — he does — but he’s simply too small for his position. He might match up pretty well against opposing point guards…I wouldn’t know. But he simply can’t match up against guys 6’5" or taller, because what he lacks in height, he does not make up for with quick hands or feet.

BG is a conundrum. On the one hand, he’s almost completely one-diminsional. On the other hand, his one dimension is pretty darn useful. I’ve always felt that Gordon would be an invaluable resource if he could find the right niche with the right team. Ideally, he could be a (much better) Eddie House for a contender: a fearless and unstoppable shooter/scorer off the bench.

Unfortunately, Ben (probably rightly) feels he should be starting. I mean, how many 20-point scorers come off the bench, right? (This is where guys like John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Detlef Schempf and Ricky Pierce cough lightly and raise their hands.) He kinda wants to be The Man, but Ben Gordon cannot carry a team by himself (save for the occasional spectacular game).

To summarize: Great scorer, limited "other" skills, has to be hidden on defense.

One last thing (or perhaps a couple things) worth noting. The biggest dig on Ben has been "He may score 20 PPG, but he gives up 25 PPG." That’s not quite fair. According to 82games.com, the 2008-09 Bulls scored 23.8 PPG from the SG position while giving up 20.2. That’s a net production of +3.6, which ranked 6th in the league at that position. The Bulls also had a net PER of +2.6 at shooting guard, which ranked 7th in the league. Since BG played about 37 MPG, most of that was his handiwork. The point is, Ben Gordon — on average — solidly outperformed opposing shooting guards last season.”

2 Comments

  • Jan 26, 20106:54 pm
    by Marcus Taylor

    Reply

    This team was put together without thinking about the defensive side of the ball. Bringing back Ben Wallace was nice, but trying to trade for Thabeet would’ve been a great move. I see him as an athletic Mutumbo, who will only get stronger as he matures. But too many were concerned he wouldn’t be a great scorer. He probably never will, but when you have a SG like Gordon, and a PF like Villanueva, you need guys like him that don’t demand the ball, and will block and alter shoots enough that those guys limitations don’t show up as much.

    • Jan 29, 20103:50 am
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Marcus, I don’t think the Pistons can trade for Thabeet easily. Teams don’t usually give up on their first-round picks so quickly. With Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol playing so well, the Grizzlies can afford to let Thabeet grow without force-feeding him minutes. And he’s improving, according to Lee Eric Smith of 3 Shades of Blue.

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