One sign of a quality organization is that it looks for value where others have left the terrain unexplored. With the signing of Ben Gordon to a non-guaranteed training camp contract, the Golden State Warriors have done exactly that.
Since leaving the Chicago Bulls in free agency during the 2009 offseason, Gordon’s basketball career has seen a number of twists and turns. A volume scorer who regularly flirted with 20-plus points during his Bulls tenure, Gordon never once shot below 40.5 percent from deep while he was in the Windy City. As a result of his prolific prowess from behind the three-point line, Gordon cashed in on a five-year deal with the Detroit Pistons, a situation where he had no chance of emulating his previous success.
Although he was clearly overpaid — like most in the NBA — the contract set the expectation bar for Gordon at a height that the 6’3” shooting guard could never reach. No matter what Gordon was going to do during his Pistons tenure, it was always going to be seen as a disappointment because of the perception behind the deal. At that time, in that context, Gordon was paid like a borderline superstar, a role he was never designed to fulfill. And after three uneven seasons in which Gordon never eclipsed 14 points per game, Detroit, the same team that signed him to a contract worth more than $50 million, shipped him to the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets), where Gordon spent two forgettable years before once again moving on.
After looking like a shell of his former self in Charlotte, the Orlando Magic shocked everyone by signing Gordon to a deal that paid him $4.5 million for the 2014-15 season. Playing a very small role on a team prioritizing its youth, Gordon enjoyed a slight personal rebound by shooting 43.7 percent from the field, 36.1 percent from distance and 83.6 percent from the free throw line. While that type of production isn’t going to excite anyone, especially considering Gordon was the third overall pick in the 2004 draft, the veteran shooting guard displayed his most tangible asset: the ability to shoot the basketball.
Officially signing Gordon to a camp deal just before the preseason started, head coach Steve Kerr explained the rationale behind bringing him in (via Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area):
“He’s a proven scorer, a proven shooter. He’s at an age where he should still be able to play. Physically, he looks good. So we’ll give him a chance. No guarantees of anything. But we do have, potentially, one roster opening. So we’ll give him a look.”
If there’s one thing the Warriors value, it’s quite obviously the ability to splash buckets.
And while today’s NBA embraces the three-point line more than it ever has prior, most teams wrote Gordon off long before he ever reached free agency in 2015 — but not the Warriors.
Gordon should fit right into Golden State’s sunny picture. And so long as Gordon doesn’t fall flat on his face, he should stand a good chance of making the final roster. Competing against names like Chris Babb, Jarell Eddie and Ian Clark for a spot on the team, Gordon makes sense with a Warriors group that likes to bomb away from deep. Considering the cost of the initial investment, it’s a no-brainer get a free look at what Gordon might be able to provide. Fresh off winning a title and working desperately to preserve their financial flexibility for future player paydays, the Warriors had to shop in the bargain bin this offseason when it came to looking for fresh blood. While Gordon isn’t the sexy youngster filled with potential, there’s something to be said for someone with proven production on a team that doesn’t have time to wait around.
Golden State is now taking advantage of being a preferred destination, a sentence most Warriors fans would’ve found inconceivable before the rise of Stephen Curry and the team around him. With an ability to connect from deep and at a point in his career where Gordon is willing to accept whatever role given, the Warriors and Gordon may very well make for the unlikeliest match of the 2015 offseason.
With no obvious downside for Golden State and Gordon motivated to keep his career alive, it’s impossible to critique the Warriors in their search for value where other NBA teams no longer wish to look.