The rise and fall of ex-Bull Ben Gordon

With the Chicago Bulls sitting pretty at 26-12 this season, in position to run away with the Central Division, and also lock up a top-4 seed, there has still been plenty of gripe from fans on how this team can elevate into legit contenders.

One need the Bulls have is Shooting Guard. Last season, Kirk Hinrich helped stabilize the position, however, their demise at SG goes back another season, to 2008-09.

That season was Derrick Rose's rookie campaign, and he was accompanied by sharp-shooting Ben Gordon in the backcourt. This duo led the Bulls to a 41-41 record, and took the defending NBA Champion Boston Celtics to an exciting 7-game series.

Although the Bulls lost the series, there was plenty of optimism heading into the next season.

However, one major change happened in the 2009 offseason: the Bulls lost arguably their best player from the
previous season. Yes, Derrick Rose was outstanding his rookie season,
but it was Ben Gordon who hit the clutch shots, especially in the 7-game
playoff series against the Celtics.

On the other hand, I certainly believe that if Gordon had stayed, it
would have seriously effected Rose's development. Rose needs the ball in
his hands 70%, if not more, of the time; Gordon, too, likes to create
offense for himself -- not his teammates too often -- off the dribble,
and often times during Rose's rookie season it became frustrating to see
Gordon try to be something he's not: a playmaker.

Gordon could have been beautiful to watch along side Rose, especially
right now, but I don't think Gordon would have ever been able to accept
his role as solely a shooter, neither was he a good defender.

Gordon left the Bulls after the 2008-09 season because the two sides couldn't settle
on a deal; the Bulls had offered several reasonable deals to Gordon
during the 2008 and 2009 offseasons. However, it was clear Gordon
wanted more money, and ultimately, that's what he got. But that doesn't mean he hasn't paid attention to rumors surrounding the Bulls and their need for a SG. (Per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune)

"It's just funny when I see there were rumors they're looking for
someone in that (shooting guard) spot," Gordon said. "I definitely look
at it. I guess it's just how it worked out."

Sure, the Bulls' SG position has been a question-mark since Gordon left, but he hasn't played well since leaving, either.

The Detroit Pistons signed Gordon to a 5-year, $59 million contract in the 2009 offseason. The Bulls offered him a deal that offseason, too, and Gordon accepted, but the Bulls rescinded the offer from Gordon.

Had the Bulls spent $10 million per season on Gordon, they wouldn't have enough money for future free agents. They obviously decided to put all their eggs in the 2010 free agent basket; the Bulls came away with Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, and a few other players to add depth.

With the Bulls, Gordon had a lot of success. Gordon earned the Sixth Man of the Year Award in his rookie season (2004-05), had two 20+ PPG seasons (2006-07, 2008-09), and averaged 30+ minutes per game 4 out of his 5 seasons here in Chicago.

In Detroit, Gordon has struggled to get consistent minutes, shots, and an identified role. During his first season in Detroit, Gordon averaged just under 28 MPG, had his worst PPG and FG% since his rookie season (13.8 PPG, 41.6%), and didn't have a consistent role as a starter or sixth man (started just 17 games).

This season, things have gone even worst. He's averaging the lowest PPG in his career, and has taken less than 10 shots per game for the first time in his career. I thought Gordon would put up big numbers in Detroit, but his lack of a role has had an impact on his production and certainly his stats.

Gordon, too, has admitted to being confused at times with the Pistons. (Per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune)

"I definitely have been a little confused at times," Gordon said. "I
guess I have to get used to kind of playing when things aren't as
certain. That's an adjustment I have to make. It's a tough one. But if I
want to be better and help the team, it's something I have to get used
to."

As a Bull, Gordon was given a chance to play big minutes and also got an opportunity to shoot. Things have changed in Detroit. He definitely hasn't played up to his potential, but his unidentified role has a major part in his downfall.

At age 27, by no means am I writing off Ben Gordon. However, he isn't going to get "better" any time soon, and he's stuck in Detroit, a bottom-feeder, for 3 more seasons after this one.

The Bulls can certainly use a shooter like Gordon, but what would his role be? Would Gordon be OK coming off the bench, or being the Bulls' designated shooter?

That's the one knock I had on Gordon: he has several moments throughout games where he tries to do too much, and that has a negative effect on the Bulls' offense. I can remember when opposing teams would double-team Rose in the backcourt, and the Bulls were forced to inbound it to Gordon; he would then try to take things into his own hands and go one-on-one.

I was a Gordon fan when he played in Chicago, but I think him leaving was good for both parties. The Bulls got enough money to beef up their roster in upcoming seasons, while Gordon got what seemed like an opportunity at a bigger role on a team.

The $59 million didn't hurt either.

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