Trade Candidate: Ben Gordon

Earlier in the week, Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld reported that the Bobcats, expected to be buyers at the trade deadline, are shopping Ben Gordon and his expiring contract in an effort to land a player who could help the team win now.

A longtime Bull and Piston, Gordon is still just 30 years old, but has seen his production and his minutes decline sharply during his time in Charlotte. He’s posting career-lows nearly across the board this season, including PPG (5.6), FG% (.374), PER (8.2), and minutes per game (15.1). In other words, his contract, rather than his performance, will likely dictate his his trade value.

That was also the case back in 2012, when the Bobcats first acquired Gordon from the Pistons for Corey Maggette. Gordon’s contract ran a year longer than Maggette’s, so Detroit included a first-round pick for the opportunity to create cap space in the summer of 2013, then eventually used that space to sign Josh Smith. Gordon’s deal is now expiring, so the Bobcats shouldn’t necessarily have to throw in a first-round pick of their own to find a taker, but still, at $13.2MM, his salary won’t be an easy one to move.

The most logical fits for Gordon are teams without playoff aspirations looking to create future cap flexibility. For a club like that, sending out a productive player on a multiyear contract would allow for more cap space this July, and depending on the player, could earn them an extra asset or two from Charlotte. It would also reduce the talent on this season’s roster, allowing the team to land a higher spot in the 2014 draft lottery.

So which teams might fit that bill and be a fit for a Gordon deal? Here are a few ideas:

Atlanta Hawks:
Following Al Horford‘s injury, it’s not clear what direction the Hawks are heading, but the team’s top five highest-paid players (Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, and Louis Williams) are all on multiyear contracts, so there could be a fit if Atlanta’s looking to sell. Of those names though, Williams looks like the most viable possibility, and his modest $5.23MM cap hit would make matching salaries difficult. I also still think the Hawks have enough talent to earn a solid playoff spot in the East, so they may not have interest in selling anyway.

Boston Celtics:
The Celtics’ decision to trade Courtney Lee‘s three-year contract for Jerryd Bayless‘ expiring deal shows that the team is interested in exactly this sort of move, meaning it’s highly likely that Danny Ainge talks to the Bobcats. Charlotte almost certainly won’t have any interest in taking back Gerald Wallace unless the C’s throw in a first-round pick or two, but I could see Jeff Green and/or Brandon Bass drawing interest from Charlotte, perhaps with Keith Bogans‘ expiring deal included as salary filler.

A couple things to keep in mind when brainstorming Celtics/Bobcats fits: Charlotte has had interest in Kris Humphries before, having discussed a Gordon/Humphries swap with the Nets last year. Additionally, Boston will be reluctant to take on any extra 2013/14 salary in a deal, since the team doesn’t have a whole lot of room below the tax line.

Chicago Bulls:
Like the Celtics, the Bulls made a cost-cutting trade this week, but Chicago’s deal also saw the team land three draft picks, including a first-rounder. So Gar Forman, John Paxson, and company almost certainly wouldn’t consider a reunion with Gordon for purely financial reasons. But if the Bobcats had any interest at all in a still-productive Carlos Boozer, who’s earning $15.3MM this season and $16.8MM next year, I imagine the Bulls would be all ears. Boozer’s 2014/15 salary could be removed from the books this summer via the amnesty clause, but if the organization could find a way to avoid having to actually pay that salary, it’d be worth considering.

Los Angeles Lakers:
Multiple reports have suggested that the Lakers’ asking price for Pau Gasol remains too high, but if the Bobcats were willing to come close to that price, perhaps there’d be a match. A package such as Gordon, Jannero Pargo, Anthony Tolliver, and a first-round pick for Gasol would work under CBA rules, reduce the Lakers’ tax bill, and allow them to pick up an asset without taking on any multiyear contracts. There are issues with my proposal, of course, such as whether the Bobcats would part with a first-rounder for Pau, or whether the Lakers would want to waive anyone to make it work. Still, it’d at least be a starting point.

Milwaukee Bucks:
We still haven’t seen any clear indications that the Bucks are resigned to their lottery fate and looking toward the long-term rather than the short-term. But if they go that route, they have some chips to put on the table. O.J. Mayo, Zaza Pachulia, and Ersan Ilyasova are all earning between $5-8MM annually, and are under contract through at least 2016. Gary Neal ($3.25MM) is also reportedly on the trade block.

Philadelphia 76ers:
Everyone’s favorite hypothetical trade partner, the 76ers still haven’t cashed in potential chips like Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thaddeus Young. Those players are all talented enough that the Sixers would need a sweetener or two along with Gordon to make any deal realistic, whether that means getting a draft pick or young player from the Bobcats or shedding Jason Richardson‘s contract (or both). It’s probably a long shot, but there could be some combination of players and picks that would help both sides.

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