The Eric Gordon signing and where the Phoenix Suns go from here

Eric Gordon has agreed to sign an offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns. Now what happens next? (Photo by Jeramie McPeek/Suns.com)

Eric Gordon has agreed to sign an offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns. Now what happens next? (Photo by Jeramie McPeek/Suns.com)

Days before the draft, Suns general manager Lance Blanks said the organization routinely considers “if-then scenarios,” and thus with news of the Suns completing an “if” by agreeing to ink Eric Gordon to a four-year, $58 million max offer sheet it’s time to ponder the “then” of what comes next.

The first implication is that the Suns may have just negotiated Gordon a new contract for the Hornets and given him an extra $8 mil over the four years due to the leverage gained by the threat of leaving.

It’s been widely reported that the Hornets will just match, which would mean the Suns wasted their time rolling out the orange carpet, creating a cardboard cutout of Gordon in a “10″ Suns jersey as well as a video welcoming “cornerstone” Eric Gordon and most importantly dealing with all their cap holds to clear the requisite space (which, of course, has not been done yet).

The Suns will have roughly $33 million committed to eight players once Kendall Marshall is signed, but thanks to large cap holds for Steve Nash and Grant Hill not to mention holds for guys like Robin Lopez, Shannon Brown and Aaron Brooks, the Suns will need to either resolve some of those situations or renounce their rights before formally making this official with Gordon on July 11.

Obviously, this is no big deal at all if you’re going to land the widely-accliamed second-best free agent on the market, but it’s not something you want to do to take a shot in the dark at signing a guy likely to be matched anyway.

I fully expected Gordon to take somebody’s money — be it the Suns, Pacers, Rockets or whomever else — and then force the Hornets to match. That’s what you do if you are a restricted free agent who can command a max contract on the open market but not from your team.

However, I did not expect Gordon to release a statement saying the Suns made an “incredible” impression and that he “strongly feel[s] they are the right franchise for me. Phoenix is just where my heart is now.”

Phoenix is where Eric Gordon’s heart is? Raise your hand if you saw that coming.

Clearly, the Suns were doing this for more than the positive PR as some on this board have suggested, and it goes without saying that their pitch was effective.

Without being able to interview Gordon at this juncture we can only speculate as to why this Indiana boy would prefer to play for a Suns franchise that so many people seem to think possesses such a dismal future. I’m sure the vaunted training staff factored in heavily as well as the opportunity to be “The Man” and play next to a pass-first point guard such as Kendall Marshall or a certain 38-year-old free agent (we’ll get to how this impacts his decision later).

It seems a bit puzzling he would want to jump ship minutes after the Hornets locked down a franchise cornerstone like Anthony Davis to play for a team with Marcin Gortat as its best current player, but considering this market has always attracted stud free agents perhaps we should not be so surprised.

As for the Hornets, some pundits anointed them as a mini-OKC (which I found preposterous) building around a big three of Davis, Gordon and Austin Rivers. I personally did not feel like Gordon and Rivers would be the best match as franchise cornerstones, and apparently Gordon agrees with me.

However, New Orleans presumably is not about to let Austin Rivers and Al-Farouq Aminu be all they have to show for trading away Chris Paul (at least for you non-conspiracy theorists out there). Eric Gordon was the burgeoning All-Star that made their offer more attractive than what the Lakers ponied up, and losing him for nothing would not seem to be an option for new Hornets owner Tom Benson.

Suns fans may be familiar with such a dilemma as seven years ago nearly the exact scenario played out with Joe Johnson.

Johnson chose to leave an up-and-coming Suns team (much further along than the Stage 1 Hornets coming off a WCF run) to be “The Man” with the Hawks after signing a five-year, $70 million offer sheet from Atlanta. That deal, of course, was for one year longer than Gordon’s but for about the same average annual value.

Just as Gordon is doing through his statement, JJ asked the Suns not to match it and they obliged, instead agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal with the Hawks. Now it’s Phoenix on the other end trying to acquire an elite shooting guard coming off his fourth NBA season, and both times the player seemingly favored money and being “The Man” over winning (I say seemingly since the Hawks became good quick and I think the Suns could as well with EG).

It seems doubtful that New Orleans would not at least threaten to match without a sign-and-trade worked out, so that may be the Suns’ next order of business, and it could be difficult without many assets a young rebuilding team like the Hornets might want (and with no bad contracts from NO that the Suns could absorb).

Gortat needs to be out of the question to me. If the Suns offer up Gortat, why should Gordon even want to come here? This is not a situation where the talent necessarily should be equal, just as it would not be in a Nash sign-and-trade. However, the Suns need to give the Hornets something and I would start with their 7-foot restricted free agent (Aaron Brooks cannot be traded since he was not on their roster last season, and presumably the Suns will rescind his qualifying offer to free up cap space any day now).

Perhaps Hornets GM Dell Demps feels Robin Lopez would be a nice fit next to Anthony Davis as New Orleans could use a center. Since the Hornets reportedly were interested in Kendall Marshall he could be in play, particularly if the Suns are able to land a veteran free-agent point guard, and Markieff Morris is always a possibility as well as picks.

The Suns received a young, unproven player in Diaw along with two protected first-round picks from the Hawks for Johnson, so perhaps that could be a guide for a potential Gordon sign-and-trade.

Or the Suns could hope Gordon applies enough pressure that he does not want to be in New Orleans that they pull this off without yielding any compensation.

Before really speculating on the next moves in free agency, we need to know the answer to the “if-then” question of whether a sign-and-trade is necessary and of course even more importantly if the Hornets will even allow Gordon to flee to Phoenix. That being said, I’m going to speculate nonetheless.

If the Suns acquire Gordon, they will have made a significant “improvement” to their roster, and at that point you know who their next call should be to. Yes, that’s right, a certain two-time MVP of the NBA. You may have heard of him. He hails from Canada.

Gordon is the “go-to player” who can get you 20 a night and score the big buckets in crunch time that the Suns have been griping about needing since Amare left, and nobody has said that more often than Steve Nash. With a Nash-Gordon backcourt, the Suns would vault back to the top of the offensive efficiency chart and become a legitimate playoff team with a future star to build around when Nash retires.

I have always felt that all things being equal, Nash would prefer to return to the Valley due to his relationship with the city/fans, his role on the team (this is his team), the training staff and the presence of his family among other things. If the Suns were to suddenly possess more talent than teams like Dallas and Toronto and also offer up a decent contract, suddenly his departure would not be a foregone conclusion.

Since Gordon will take up so much of the Suns’ available cap space, one of their next moves would presumably be to amnesty Josh Childress, which could open up the cap room to bring back Nash, Hill and Lopez. By trading Sebastian Telfair for another wing, you have a pretty darn good team.

The Suns could go in the opposite direction as well and start fresh by pairing Gordon with Beasley and/or Mayo and try to rejuvenate the roster with young talent.

Keep in mind that is, very early speculation in that not only do we have any idea if the Hornets will match, we have no idea what the Suns might need to offer in a sign-and-trade and whether they would be willing to amnesty Childress to give Gordon some more help.

However, if this all goes down it suddenly would make sense to keep Nash for both parties. No longer would he be retained merely for sentimental reasons, it would be about winning, too, and then the Suns would have his heir apparent ready to take over in two seasons so long as Marshall isn’t surrendered in a sign-and-trade.

There’s nothing so difficult in this league as acquiring young elite talent, and tonight the Suns put themselves in position to add one of the best under-25 shooting guards in the league to their roster.

If the Hornets don’t match, the Suns will be flush with options to improve both in the present and the future, and the rebuilding (reloading?) process will not be so painful with a star to build around.

Nash interested in Lakers?

NBA.com’s David Aldridge tweeted that Nash is in “huge demand around the league, with multiple teams trying to get in hourly, per source.”

One of those such teams is the Suns’ bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. However, much like the New York Knicks, such a deal would require the Suns’ cooperation in a sign-and-trade, and Paul Coro tweeted that it “sounds like there’s no way Sarver would do that for the #Suns rival.”

Aldridge speculated that the Lakers could offer Ramon Sessions, Jordan Hill and Matt Barnes in sign-and-trades (they are all free agents), but it’s hard to see how anything short of Pau Gasol (which the Lakers would not do, presumably) would net them Nash from the Suns, if Phoenix even picks up that phone call. Just one more reason for Kobe to hate this franchise.

Aldridge did have the line of the night in his piece, though, after writing, “The Suns aren’t believed to be interested in World Peace.”

Not the kind the Lakers would be offering, anyway.

Tags: Eric Gordon

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