Hey, if the Bulls remain inconsistent on the court, I can be inconsistent on my opinions of them. So several weeks after my yuletide-spirit-fueled declaration of love for Ben Gordon, I'm back on the fence after this past road trip.
Not that Ben isn't still having his best season ever, after all he's still averaging around 7.5 Free-Throw attempts per 40 minutes (which is far better than his previous years), and I still view that as a good indicator to his progress as a player. So when I see on the 7 game road trip that he's twice had games with zero free throws attempted, and another with only 3 (all losses, btw), it's a little concerning.
Throughout the past few national telecasts, we've had to hear over and over again how the Bulls don't have a "go-to guy", "superstar", "all-star", "star", whatever. And while it comes across as lazy commentary, it's also true. But instead of focusing on these ill-defined labels that are basically extensions of 'great player', what is undoubtedly needed in terms of skills is somebody to create with the ball and break down opposing defenses. This doesn't have to be the 'low post presence', someone to just sit on the block and while commanding double teams. That works too, but having a quick guard like Ben Gordon getting to the line is currently their best option. And the problem with recent road losses is that if he isn't getting to the line, that indicates he's not attacking the rim and remaining just a streak shooter, and therefore not dependable enough to make me believe in consistent offense from the team.
But there's also the theory that getting Pau Gasol would open things up for Gordon and allow him to improve without having such an offensive burden on him. It's possible...and is a reason you wouldn't deal him in a trade for Gasol (or someone like Gasol). If you can't tell by the disjointed nature of this post, it's because I have no conviction either way on whether to wait on Gordon to get more consistently to the line, or realize there's a chance it won't happen soon enough. It's not something that has me dealing him away anytime soon, but puts into question his ultimate ceiling: does he become that 40+ minute go-to perimeter scorer, the kind who produces even when his outside shots aren't falling?
It's admittedly a high standard for Gordon, and one that I wouldn't apply to Hinrich or Deng (my two other 'untouchables' in a Gasol deal). But that's because I picture them in different roles that they're already filling: Hinrich is a true point guard who defends well, Deng is an uber-efficient secondary scoring option who rebounds and is a willing (if not great) wing defender. But Gordon's game is built to be the go-to scorer, and if he doesn't get better at being that, the other facets of his game will always keep me questioning his place on a title team.