by Juan Martinez
The following is a true story: Prior to the 2010 NBA Playoffs, I made a trade for an autographed two-color patch Exquisite rookie card (numbered to 225) of Russell Westbrook. In exchange for the Westbrook, I gave up a 2005-06 Upper Deck Trilogy Rookie Premiere Autograph Patch (numbered to 10) of Danny Granger and a 2001-02 Topps Pristine Rookie Autograph of Joe Johnson to get the Westbrook. At the time, the values of the cards were within a few dollars of each other because Westbrook was considered an athletic freak that shoots too much for a point guard and plays in the shadow of a superstar teammate.
That trade sounds insane today, doesn’t it?
Westbrook is still an athletic freak that shoots too much for a point guard and plays in the shadow of a superstar teammate, but he also made the jump to elite status, becoming an NBA All-Star for the first time and earning a spot on the All-NBA Second Team for the 2010-11 season. Sales of ungraded Westbrook Exquisites now sell in the $400-$600 range depending on the patch. If you made that same trade now, David Stern would actually come down from his pedestal in New York and veto it for being such a joke of an offer.
Many people like to attribute Westbrook’s success to his time with Team USA during the 2010 FIBA World Championships. In fact, a lot of the players that were on that team experienced breakout years, from Kevin Love to Rudy Gay to Derrick Rose, who made the biggest leap, winning the NBA MVP award. Playing alongside the likes of Rose and Stephen Curry on an everyday basis made Westbrook better. Putting all that work in elevated his game and his cards were an ancillary beneficiary of it.
But there was another guard from that squad that also made a sizable leap from the season before. While injuries and playing in the shadow of a superstar teammate hurt his ascent to Westbrook-like status, his numbers all jumped considerably from the season before. Armed with a beautiful jump shot that even Ray Allen would applaud and a frame that allows him to slash to the rim with the ferocity of Dwyane Wade without falling down seven times, he is the future of the shooting guard position in the NBA. And now with talk of a certain point guard possibly coming to help him out (or ship him out to New Orleans, depending on what David Stern wants), things are looking up for this young star. And unlike Westbrook, he doesn’t have position issues or seems bothered playing with a superstar (yet). If given the opportunity again, I would trade the Danny Granger and Joe Johnson cards I had in exchange for a two-color autograph patch Exquisite rookie of this guy.
So will somebody please pay attention to Eric Gordon?
Looking back on the 2008 rookie class, Gordon’s card values are nowhere near the likes of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, so there is plenty of room for growth. In the past 90 days, Gordon’s rookie card sales have averaged to about $29.27 (525 listings), while Westbrook commands $47.92 (1,032 listings) and Rose is an unworldly $56.99 (3,851 listings). The telling part of these sales is that Gordon has only one true Exquisite rookie sale (there was another listed in a lot that sold for less than the single auction), while Westbrook and Rose have several each. This could either be a case of people hoarding for the sake of flipping the moment Gordon has a good game, but I’m guessing the more likely reason is that collectors are staying away from investing in Gordon because of his team. The Clippers are one of the most notoriously miserly franchises in all of professional sports and save for Blake Grififn – who is an extremely rare case – they have not had much to be excited about since Sam Cassell left. Gordon’s continued development should give you plenty of reason to pick up his Exquisite while they are hovering in the $200$-$300 range.
If Gordon’s Exquisite rookie is too much for your blood, there are plenty of alternatives. The average sales of his autograph rookie cards is $67.22 (133 listings), with that number being inflated by rare parallels. The SP Authentic, Ultimate and UD Black rookies can still be had for less than a hundred dollars and all feature on-card autographs and rookie photo shoot swatches/patches. Even more affordable than his Upper Deck issues are his various Topps autographs. A Bowman Chrome rookie recently ended for $48.00 and a Topps Hardwood autographed rookie card that’s numbered to 50 with jersey and patch swatches ended at $32.00. Keep an eye on the 2008-09 Topps Signature cards because he is actually one of the short prints in the set (serial numbered to 275). Then again, anything is a short print compared to the 10,000 Nick Young autographs in the product.
Gordon cards I would stay away from an investment standpoint would be the Topps Rookie Photoshoot autographs (high potential for counterfeits), the Skybox Precious Metal Gems Red and Green parallels (too much competition) and his UD Premier rookies (confusing tiered parallels and dead ringer for popular UD Black hurt its chances to stand out).
Of course, there’s a reason why I compare Eric Gordon to Russell Westbrook. As long as Westbrook continues to play with Kevin Durant and does not completely overtake him in every sense of the word, there will be a ceiling to Westbrook’s card values. More than any other sport, the NBA belongs to the alpha dogs and those are the ones that get all the accolades and the huge chunk of fan’s collecting budget. Russell Westbrook has alpha dog talent, but does he have enough to overtake Durant or lead his own team elsewhere? That will be the question moving forward.
Eric Gordon might have a more rugged game than Westbrook, but he has the talent to become an alpha dog as well. And with Kobe Bryant (33 years old) and Dwyane Wade(30 years old) battling for supremacy as the best shooting guard in the league, Gordon (23 years old!) is arguably already the third best right now. However, the Clippers belong to the Blake Show and if that point guard comes through that door any day now, Eric Gordon could be looking at even more competition amongst his own team for collecting mindshare. But if Gordon ends up in New Orleans, he becomes the face of a franchise desperate for a star (among other things that they need) and the ceiling for his card values gets shattered.
Juan Martinez is a freelance writer from Southern California. Follow him on Twitter.