So, in the hours drawn up after the Orlando Magic declined to pick up the 2014-15 option on the much beloved Jameer Nelson, the team appeared to be cobbling together a two-year, $9 million contract agreement with the mostly-ignored Ben Gordon. The man that cost Joe Dumars his job, the man that cost the Detroit Pistons a lottery pick this season, and the guy that the former Charlotte Bobcats could barely be bothered with last season. Two years, at age 31, and $9 million.
This really isn’t all that bad though.
Gordon made just 34 percent of his shots last season, and only worked for 19 games before Charlotte asked him to leave, and he’s been on a steady decline to the realm of the decidedly sub-average ever since starting alongside Derrick Rose for most of that Rookie of the Year’s first season in Chicago back in 2008-09. Ben’s career took a turn for the terrible in the summer of 2009 when he signed a five-year, $58 million contract with the Detroit Pistons, and he responded by giving up on the pretense that he at least tried defensively, while shooting 32 percent from long range in his first year with the former playoff team.
Those marks from outside shot up in the next two seasons, but Gordon’s game and the Pistons’ persona sunk to the depths of irrelevance in the intermittent years. He was dealt to Charlotte in the summer of 2012 in a salary dump for Detroit that cost the team its lottery pick in 2014, and Gordon had to watch from the sidelines (if at all) as his new team rallied to make the playoffs without him last spring. It would have been Gordon’s first postseason trip since his role in Chicago’s exhilarating near-upset of the Boston Celtics in 2009’s first round, but coach Steve Clifford obviously decided his team was better off without Gordon’s input. They even released him after the deadline that allowed waived players a chance to hook up with a playoff roster, the NBA’s version of enforcing that a mob hit be given a closed casket funeral.
Now, two years and $9 million?
Not quite. The first year, reportedly, is guaranteed for half that mark, but the second year is unguaranteed, and this isn’t all that bad a bet. The Orlando Magic were the second-worst offensive team in the NBA last season, and they don’t figure to get any better with Nelson (who was set to make $8 million next year prior to his release) out of the picture, and with athletic but raw rookies like Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon learning the ropes. Arron Afflalo is gone, and this Victor Oladipo-led squad will be a chore to watch offensively next year.
Enter Gordon. Perhaps.
If Ben can at least approximate the shooting he gave Detroit two seasons ago – a stellar 43 percent from long range – than the sub-average payday will be worth it. The Magic were in the lower half of the league in three-point shooting last season before jettisoning Afflalo and Nelson, and Gordon fills a need even if he shoots at the league average.
He’s not going to create shots for anyone, his turnovers have long just about matched his assists, and even in his athletic prime Gordon rarely got to the line. What he can do is pull up in transition off of what Magic general manager Rob Hennigan thinks will be heaps of fast break chances created off of stops or forced turnovers. The Magic are going incredibly young next season, and Gordon’s role as a (potentially) sweet-shooting outlier isn’t that bad of a gamble.
If he fails? Then Orlando is out four and a half million. For a team that still has room to stretch before even hitting the league’s minimum salary cap, this is no big deal. And if Gordon flirts his way into the Magic picking up his option for 2015-16? At this price? No big deal.
It’s just a flier on a guy that used to care, a player that might have something left, giving a young team what it needs badly – a hot hand that might push the Magic over 88 points per game on some nights.
One more chance, Ben. Make sure your aim is true.
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