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The Clipper Ship

No Longer Sinking
Jan 18 '11

Air Gordon

Eric Gordon dunking against the San Antonio Spurs

Eric Gordon: spot up shooter, or one of the most exciting and efficient scorers in all of basketball?

In the two previous seasons to this one, his first two in the league, Gordon was the former; a spot up shooter with touch from deep, throwing in the occasional dunk here or there. At times, he displayed tantalizing speed moving to the cup, but the ballhandling skills were not always there. However, in 2010-2011, EJ has morphed into a dynamic scorer, even without the benefit of his outside shot for the beginning of the season.

Over the summer, EJ was a key member of the USA Basketball team that won the FIBA world championship. Although he began as a longshot to make the team, and was dismissed as such by the mainstream sports media (mostly thanks to the fact that he is a Clipper), coach Mike Krzyzewski recognized the value Gordon could bring, namely 3-point shooting and defense off the bench. Gordon responded well, becoming the 4th leading scorer on the team and one of its premier defensive stoppers, along with earning national recognition in the process.

However, the most impressive aspect of the progress, at least to the Clippers fans who had been watching him develop, was the increased aggressiveness he was pushed towards by both his coach and the other high-profile players on the team. Gordon had gained their respect as a shooter, but they thought he could be too passive pushing the ball. Upon his return to the states, and to the Clippers, Gordon had not only learned what it was like to be a champion, but also how to assume an increasingly heavy portion of the Clippers’ leadership and offense.

In the beginning of the season, after Chris Kaman and Baron Davis fell to injury, Gordon as well as rookie Blake Griffin were pressed into the prime outside and inside scoring roles, respectively. Gordon rose to the challenge, and took control of the Clippers’ offense, both as a veteran presence at shooting guard and, at times, having to play the backup point guard role for rookie Eric Bledsoe. Unfortunately, Gordon’s outside shot deserted him, and he shot a measly 21% on nearly 6 attempts per game on 3’s. However, Gordon simultaneously discovered an astounding ability to drive to the goal and either get a layup or dunk, oftentimes with fouls thrown in for good measure. In this way, EJ rose to become a top 10 scorer in the NBA even without his preferred weapon, and in the process, threw down some truly nasty slams on those who got in his way.

The most telling way Gordon changed, however, was in the way he began to take over games at the end. His drives and ability to create shots for his teammates kept the Clippers in numerous games, and he truly stepped up as a clutch, go-to scorer for his team. He has been one of the top 4th quarter scorers in the entire NBA this year, as well as having his assist totals rise at a furious rate. Not only is the production there, but the moments he created were often just as spectacular:

This play would have been impressive at any point in the game; slicing through the defense for the throwdown. But the slam took place at the very end of the game, with the entire defense keying on him. He immediately turned upcourt, defended All-NBA guard Deron Williams, and blocked his shot to force overtime. This is just one instance in which Gordon’s clutch play brought the Clips closer to victory.

As the season progresses, Gordon has elevated his play even further. His 3FG% is steadily rising closer to, and perhaps even beyond, his career percentage of 38%. His True Shooting Percentage, an advanced statistic that measures a player’s efficiency with the shots he takes, is all the way up in the high 50’s, and is only climbing thanks to his improved shooting from deep. His assists and rebounds have both risen dramatically from previous years, and all of this has happened in only about a minute and a half more per game. Eric Gordon has truly improved his overall game, and it’s beginning to show in the Clippers’ win column and not just in its highlight reel.

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