When James Jones was filling out his roster this past summer, he was looking to add complementary pieces to a team that possessed three offensive juggernauts. Knowing that the Phoenix Suns would be a second apron tax team relative to the salary cap, the only options that he could bring in would be players on veteran minimum deals.
When you have Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal rostered on your team, you will attract quality players who are willing to take a pay cut to be a part of something special.
One of those players was veteran guard, Eric Gordon.
Gordon has been around the league for quite some time and fulfilled many roles along his journey. A sharpshooting three-point specialist who possesses physicality and an ability to attack the cylinder, Gordon has played the role of starter and reserve alike. Before joining the Suns, he scored over 13,000 points in his career, was a 37.1% shooter from three-point range, and won the Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2017 for the services he provided on the Houston Rockets.
Gordon has a nice résumé.
Knowing that the duo of Devin Booker and Bradley Beal would eat up the majority of the available guard minutes, Gordon was brought to Phoenix to relieve some of the offensive pressure when either of those two sat. The challenge that Phoenix has had thus far this season? Those two have sat more than they have played.
Devin Booker, whose return to the starting lineup has sparked a seven-game win streak for the Suns, has missed a total of 8 games this season. Bradley Beal has missed 14. 22 games missed by Book and Beal, 12 played.
It’s not the recipe that Jones was cooking this past off-season but it has become a reality.
What has saved the Suns in many aspects is the availability of Eric Gordon to spell both Booker and Beal in the starting lineup. He has played in 16 of the Suns’ 17 games thus far, and he has started 12 of them.
EG is no stranger to playing starting minutes; he entered this season having started 628 of his 818 NBA games. That’s 77% of them. He understands what it means to start and how to prepare himself mentally to do so.
This brings the open-ended question that we can’t definitively answer, but we have to wonder: Where the heck with the Suns be without the services of Eric Gordon this season?
He has performed elegantly in his role. As a starter season, he is averaging 32.7 minutes played and 17.3 points. He is shooting 44% from beyond the arc in his 12 starts, adding 3.6 assists, and is +57 when on the court.
Eric Gordon when starting this season:— John Voita (@DarthVoita) November 27, 2023
+57 +/- pic.twitter.com/rVhsOjZUYx
It is of note that, in his 4 games coming off the bench, those numbers drop drastically even though the minutes don’t. 27.2 minutes, 26.1% from deep, 1.5 assists, and a -9.
His impact, although not elite on the defensive end — he has a 115.9 defensive rating in starts — has been stellar on the offensive end with a 122.5 offensive rating. And that’s what the Suns need, somebody to relieve some pressure from Devin Booker and/or Kevin Durant.
Think back to the 2023 postseason. It was the Booker and Durant Show playing nightly at a theater near you. Sure, they ran into the buzzsaw that became the 2023 NBA champion Denver Nuggets, but the fact that they lacked a tertiary scorer greatly diminished their chances of advancing in the postseason.
Eric Gordon has been the rock this season, both figuratively, and literally. He’s built like a rock. I’m sure if you somehow picked him up and threw him across Bartlett Lake, he’d skip!
Facetiousness aside, his acquisition has been a stabilizing force on a roster that’s top talent has not been stable. He’s quietly gone about his business, knocking down three-pointers from 28 feet, and doing so with great efficiency. All on a veteran minimum deal.
Where would the Suns be without Air Gordon? Not on a seven-game win streak, and not with the third-best record in the Western Conference.