In the early hours of Monday morning, the Bahamas were celebrating the biggest win in their history of playing basketball, as they stunned Argentina 82-75 in the FIBA Olympic pre-qualifying tournament down in Santiago Del Estero.
In doing so, they have given themselves a chance to qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time in Paris next summer. Knocking out Argentina, the 2004 gold medallists no less, was equally as impressive, and the Bahamas were powered by NBA talent.
None more important than Eric Gordon, whose 27 points led the team in the win, and proves to the Phoenix Suns that he has been signed as the missing link.
The Bahamas didn’t just have Gordon to lean on down the stretch of the tournament though, with fellow Suns Deandre Ayton instrumental in helping the country get to this point. The big man looking lean and engaged for his country.
Ayton had a superb 21 rebounds (as well as 10 points) in the win, playing exactly the way new head coach Frank Vogel envisioned. Taking what came his way offensively, and using the defensive ability that led to the Suns making him a first overall pick in the NBA Draft on the other end to have a great impact.
Returning to Gordon, and the 34-year-old had an even bigger influence for the Bahamas than everybody expected. Any roster featuring Ayton and Buddy Hield of the Indiana Pacers has a great duo with which to hurt opponents inside, as well as from deep through Hield’s excellent 3-point shooting.
Yet it was Gordon who had the game high 27 points in the final, but his 13 points in 20 minutes in a 78-62 semi-final win over Uruguay was equally as impressive, albeit for different reasons. Across two important games for the country he suited up for, Gordon both took over a game, but also knew his role in a more straightforward semi-final victory.
When you think about Gordon playing for the Suns, isn’t that exactly the type of player they have been missing? One who can serve as a link between the “Big 4” of Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Ayton, and all of the players they’ve added on veteran minimum deals.
Guys like Bol Bol, Keita Bates-Diop, Chris Eubanks and Chimezie Metu all still have something to prove in the NBA. They will be doing their best to help this group win, but they’ve never played for a true contender like the Suns before.
Having Gordon act as a go-between in the locker-room is one thing, but during his time with the Houston Rockets, he was also used to contending and hitting shots in big moments. The fact he also defends to the best of his ability given his age and height is an added bonus that the Suns will lean into.
He will be asked to play some minutes on a second unit featuring a lot of these unproven players and at least one star player. Gordon is likely to close games against certain opponents, and that could continue into the postseason if it goes well. But being a starter is not a guarantee for him.
Not that he’ll care, which is again the beauty of adding a player like Gordon. He just wants to win, and even better, he will have been able to use the time with the Bahamas to speak with Ayton as well. We’re not saying he alone can get through to the big man, who has had a tumultuous relationship with the franchise and Suns fans in the past.
But it couldn’t hurt to have a veteran to talk to, and who will be along for the ride once the actual season begins. Perhaps best of all, getting Gordon means that every other contender doesn’t get to benefit from having a player that they would all love to have.
He played for the L.A. Clippers to finish last season, and there’s little doubt a group featuring Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook could have continued to rely on Gordon. Instead he’ll be helping the Suns to try and win, which is itself a win because he would have been a difficult opponent to come up against in the postseason.
Really there is no downside to the addition of Eric Gordon to this group. If anything his play with the Bahamas has shown the Suns’ front office just what kind of player they are getting. Reliable and able to play a bigger role if required during the regular season, before acting as the perfect role player for the postseason.