Editor's Note: Big thanks to Mase for writing up this fantastic Eric Gordon profile. If any of the rest of you are experts on one prospect or another and are interested in doing your own KTP, let me know.
When the two biggest loves of my sports life get together, it’s often a good thing. Therefore I should be excited about the prospects of the Knicks landing Eric Gordon from my alma-mater and current state of residence, right? Despite a long-standing tradition of IU players translating their superb collegiate careers into the pros with the Knicks, including Eric Anderson (pictured below left, 1992-93), Jared Jeffries (2006-present), and Roderick Wilmont (pictured below right, summer league 2007), I’m not as excited this time around.
That being said, Seth entrusted me to write a Know the Prospect bit on Gordon, and in the interests of killing more time at work, I gladly ageed:
I currently work in sports radio in Indianapolis and spent a lot of time covering high school basketball when I was fresh out of college. I don’t feel like I’m a total authority on Eric Gordon, but I have been watching him play since he was 16 (in the "I have to cover this for work" and not the "I’m a creep that follows around 16 year olds in a rusty van" way). His high school dominance may have been overshadowed by the duo of Mike Conley and Greg Oden at Lawrence North for his freshman-junior years, but make no mistake, Gordon was right up there with them. He earned Indiana Mr. Basketball (player of the year that is) honors in one of the deepest classes in Indiana basketball history, with seven recruits ranked in the top 80 nationally. The class included Jeff Teague (all-Freshman ACC team at Wake Forest), Robbie Hummel (First team All-Big Ten at Purdue), E'Twaun Moore (2nd team All-Big Ten at Purdue), and Matt Howard (Freshman of the Year, first team All-Horizon League at Butler).
Unless you were living in a cave two years ago, you probably heard about Gordon’s much publicized de-commitment from Illinois and switch to IU in the fall of 2006. The news filled Illini fans with murderous rage, and filled me with celebratory beer. Gordon was IU’s biggest get since Isiah Thomas (even bigger than Jared Jeffries in 2000), who led the Hoosiers to the 1981 National Championship. Pairing Gordon with All-Big Ten performer DJ White was supposed to bring IU close to their sixth banner, and lead me to perhaps getting tear-gassed for the 2nd time in my life (the first time being after IU's Cinderella run to the National Championship game in my freshman year of '02).
However, I'd be lying if I said Gordon's one-and-done season in Bloomington wasn't viewed as a disappointment. I think it’s mostly attributed to three reasons: 1) the surrounding allegations against head coach Kelvin Sampson, 2) a midseason wrist injury on his off-hand, and 3) the ridiculously unfair expectations laid on him by the passoniate, yet often delusional IU fanbase. No player was affected more than Gordon after the Sampson fallout at IU. After Sampson "resigned" on February 22nd, Gordon connected on just 32 of 99 shots (32%) from the field including a horrid 7-50 (14%) shooting slump from 3-pt range. It looked at times like Gordon was trying to do too much, while it was obvious that the players around him (with the exception of DJ White) gave up and refused to play for interim head coach Dan Dakich. In fact, if you want to know just how bad things were in Bloomington during the Sampson era, entering today only one scholarship player (Jordan Crawford) remains from last season’s team. The off-hand injury made it impossible for Gordon to go to his left, and also took away what was a lethal crossover move that he used to get to the basket or create space. His dribbling was sloppy and his passing was even worse, as he committed 5 or more turnovers in 6 of his final 14 games. Lofty expectations crushed a solid career of former five-star prospect Bracey Wright earlier in the decade, and also destroyed the psyche of Andrae Patterson in the mid-90’s. Gordon was largely seen as the "savior" of IU basketball, yet despite leading the Big Ten in scoring as a freshman and setting a myriad of first-year records, his late-season struggles released the full venom of the Hoosier Nation. It’s hard to explain how unforgiving/bitter Indiana fans can be unless you’ve been them (pictured below).
HIGH CEILING, UPSIDE, POTENTIABILITY, ETC.
If not for his late seasons struggles, I believe Gordon would be viewed as the 3rd best player in this Draft. He is a better shooter and has much more potential as a defender than OJ Mayo. He is far superior to Jerryd Bayless from a physical standpoint – EJ had an NBA-ready body (6’4, 215) when he was 17. His NBA comparison on NBADraft.net is to Mitch Richmond, which is fitting because Gordon’s range is nearly unlimited, and early in the season he proved that he can consistently connect from out to 25 feet. He also has a quick first step and a great ability to get to the basket. He gets to the free throw line like crazy (3rd nationally with a 7.4 free throw makes per game), which is great news because he shot 85% from the line for the season. He’s a smart, high-character kid, who showed a lot of maturity despite the tempest of negativity swirling around his publicized de-commitment.
THINGS THAT MAKE ME THINK HE’S JAMAL CRAWFORD REINCARNATED
While he has a great outside touch and the ability to get to the hoop, Gordon’s mid-range game is nearly non-existent (unlike J Craw who has developed a very nice one). Like an old-school Nintendo game, Gordon usually has two options when he has the basketball: tap the A button and he’ll launch a long three-pointer, tap the B button and he’ll go to the basket. By the way, Option B meant that he was going to try to get to the basket NO MATTER WHAT. He would rarely pull up, or jump stop and dish. Often defenders would know this and get in proper position to draw charges. I swear, if I had a nickel for every time Gordon was called for an offensive foul, I could buy out Jerome James’ contract. He has OK vision, but he is extremely reckless passing the basketball. He would force passes into traffic or whistle fastballs off the hands of unexpecting teammates. While facing consistent double-teams at IU, Gordon would try to sometimes take on 2-3 defenders by himself, something he wasn’t able to do as easily as in high school.
GET YOU SCHOOLED
To drop some knowledge on people outside of Indiana that haven’t followed Gordon, his nickname is "EJ". This may be confusing because he last name starts with a "G", but EJ is a junior (his pop is Eric Gordon Sr.). Also, it was long rumored that he played the kid version of Michael Jordan in Space Jam, something that he denies, yet is still reported on several websites – including the omniscient Wikipedia. Gordon was also born on Christmas Day, leading some Hoosier basketball fans to make unfair comparisons to someone else born on that day.
SEE FOR YOURSELF
Don’t let my reservations get in the way of your personal opinion of Gordon. Here is Gordon in the semi-states his senior year, committing the sickest charge you'll ever see:
Here is Gordon's collegiate highlight film. Check the disgustingly unfair behind-the-legs bounce and pop at 2:23 and again at 2:38. Poor Tennesee State guy:
While Gordon certainly has the potential to be a star player, I don’t view him as a good fit for the Knicks. He is too small (6’3 1/2) to be a 2 on the pro-level, yet lacks the passing ability/vision/handling to be a successful NBA point guard. Like Seth said about Mayo in his writeup, he is a shoot-first combo guard, and would join a crowded depth chart of those same type of players like Stephon Marbury and Nate Robinson.
Tweener (n.): a player who combines the attributes of a shooting guard and point guard but does not fit the prototype of either position. Such guards usually play a shooting-guard-type game (looking more to score than to pass) but lack the height to guard opposing shooting guards and the skills to direct an offense that a "pure" point would display. Such players are also known as "combination (combo) guards."
Also see: Gordon, Ben.
But, I would be first in line to buy his Knicks jersey and certainly would welcome him with open arms to New York.
Best case scenario: 5th overall to Memphis
Worst case scenario: 11th overall to Indiana
Most likely destination: 7th overall to the Clippers