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Will Ben Gordon return to his past form after an injuries plagued him last season?
For those of you without long memories, Ben Gordon was a top-50 player around this time last year. He had just signed a big contract with the Detroit Pistons and most of us thought he'd have no trouble putting up his usual 20 points, three assists and three rebounds. Most of us figured he'd be able to contribute, even in a crowded and confused Pistons backcourt because he was a consistent player who didn't necessarily need to play huge minutes to have a big impact.
Then, Gordon hurt his ankle early on last season and never really got going again (despite hanging on for 62 games) until April, when he lit up opposing defenses for 20 points and four assists on 46 percent shooting from the floor in seven games. That resurgence included a 39-point outburst against a Miami Heat team that finished fourth in defensive efficiency last season. It seems to go without saying that Gordon found his rhythm before the season came to an end.
|Ben Gordon hopes to build on a strong finish last season with a pain-free campaign in Detroit.|
And yet, Gordon is going 98th in average ESPN drafts. What gives? Well for one thing, he's got a ton of competition in the backcourt (even if most of it is wildly mediocre). He'll probably be coming off the bench behind Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton, and even then he'll have to contend with Will Bynum and Tracy McGrady for minutes. Gordon can hardly play any point guard and isn't big enough to defend many shooting guards. In Chicago, he played alongside Kirk Hinrich, and last season the majority of his minutes came alongside Stuckey. Taking all of that into consideration, it's hard for me to imagine him getting any more than the 31 minutes per game we're currently projecting for him.
Still, that might be enough to make him a great value. If we assume that Gordon can match his form from previous seasons when he was healthy, we can probably put him down for around 17 points, three rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers. He has never been the sort of player who racks up steals or blocks with any sort of regularity, so we shouldn't expect that to change now. Those numbers might not sound earth-shattering at first, but it's almost exactly what Jamal Crawford did last season for the Hawks. Crawford, for the record, ended up (surprise, surprise) 50th on the Player Rater.
The point seems to be that guys who are great 3-point shooters are extremely valuable in fantasy, even if they're not playing 40 minutes every night. You might be worried about Gordon getting hurt, but it's worth noting that he won't turn 28 years old until April and has played 80 or more games in four of his six seasons in the league. Based on last season's stats, I'd take 30 minutes of Gordon over 32 minutes of Jason Terry or 34 minutes of John Salmons. I'd rather draft Gordon than hope that Crawford can hit 38 percent of his 3s again or that Vince Carter can rebound from the worst season of his career.
I don't think there's any reason to believe Gordon can't regain his form from his Chicago years. Perhaps more importantly, I think even if he does slip a little he's worth drafting ahead of where he's currently going in most drafts. I wouldn't hesitate to take him in the eighth or ninth round of a 10-team draft, especially if I needed a boost in 3s. The Pistons might be awful this season, but Gordon should certainly be a lot better.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.