Reading this blog, you know I'm a Ben Gordon fan. I've thought the Bulls made a huge mistake in not signing him to the 6 year 54 million dollar extension two seasons ago which would have locked him in to a 9 million dollar a year contract. A contract I considered a value. At the same time, I thought it was fine to let him walk when the pricetag was going to go up to 12 million this summer. Not that the Bulls would have seriously considered that due to the luxury tax.
While I've defended Gordon for most of the year, and I was still disappointed the Bulls didn't make things work for him, my own words after we declined to pick him up for 6/54 came back to me.
At that point I said, Gordon has just as much chance of becoming an MLE player as he does of earning more than the 6/54 that he originally declined (and then took at the last minute to have the Bulls decline). Fred Pfeiffer and I had debated that point, but this season has proven it. Swap Gordon's 08/09 and 09/10 seasons and he would have made the MLE (of course, then after a great 09/10 season he'd look like an incredible value at the MLE).
In six years in the NBA, Gordon's had a PER below 15 three times and above 15 three times. Overall, his career mark of 16 puts him slightly above average. He's become a volume three point shooting specialist, and this year he struggled to even do that.
More interesting to me is how it all fell apart in Detroit. Was it simply the injuries? If so, we should see a much better season from Gordon next year. However, it also seems like Gordon struggled to fit in with the players Detroit had. His greatest success in the season came while they had other injuries and there were no chemistry issues on the court.
That's partially Detroits fault. They didn't have a real PG, but a pure shooting guard in Hamilton and a SG forced to play PG in Stuckey. They added in another PG-sized SG in Gordon. The fit there is simply terrible. Hamilton and Gordon are performing well under career norms, while Stuckey, for whatever reason, seems to be played as if he's a stud guard when he's a straight chucker (career TS% of 49.2% is simply awful).
However, the larger point is that Gordon struggled to fit in with other perimeter players who required a lot of touches. He excelled when he was the focal point of the offense, but struggled to become a cohesive part of a talented backcourt.
It brings back my point from long ago, that Hinrich was the perfect guard to play with Gordon. Didn't require lots of shots, defended the two on defense, played PG on offense. It's going to be tough for Gordon to find such an ideal teammate to complement his abilities elsewhere.
I've criticized the Bulls for keeping Hinrich over Gordon. No more. At this point, it's hard make that case. His performance hasn't been good this season, and his experience in Detroit makes it look more likely he would have held Rose back, at least somewhat, from becoming the player he is.
With his poor play, would you really want Gordon with four more seasons left after this one or would you rather have Hinrich for two more seasons, coming off the books when Rose requires an extension? Would you rather have Rose forced into the role of dominant player or still having the ability to defer to Gordon?
Not only is it time to let Gordon go as fans, if you're one of the few who haven't, it's time to stop viewing letting him go as a mistake. Derrick Rose needed this season to take it to the next level. He needed a season where everything was on him, and he was forced to be the man. He's a much better player for having it, and he'll keep that with him when the Bulls upgrade in talent again.
I still think Gordon is a better player than his detractors credit him as, but it seems equally clear that letting him go was the right thing for our franchise to do.