The Rockets already had James Harden as the primary shooting guard, and Gordon had not played more than 60 games since his rookie season. The Rockets also already signed his New Orleans teammate Ryan Anderson, and people believed that the Rockets should balance out the Anderson signing with a defensive specialist. Eric Gordon will not be that defensive specialist, but he will help Houston’s perimeter shooting.
Gordon is a 27-year-old, 38% career three-point shooter entering his ninth NBA campaign. He was drafted seventh overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2008, and has spent the last five seasons in New Orleans. This is the first time he is playing for the team he chose. We know he didn’t choose to go to New Orleans in exchange for Chris Paul.
Gordon is an unpredictable player, but I remember him vividly as a Rocket killer. Last season, in the game right after the Rockets’ Christmas Day victory over the Spurs, he scored 26 points on 10-12 shooting, and was 6-8 from downtown. That’s the player the Rockets hope to get, but that is one of many versions of Eric Gordon. There are three possible Eric Gordons the Rockets could get this season.
Behind Door No. 1 is Unhealthy Eric Gordon. Gordon has been injured in every season since his rookie year. He missed most of last season with a fractured finger, and this is probably a large reason why the Pelicans let him walk this offseason. If he continues his injury history, he may only play a handful of games, and he won’t have much of an impact on Houston’s season.
Behind Door No. 2 is Role Player Eric Gordon. If healthy, Gordon can play a complementary role in the Rockets’ offense. He could be a solid wing that averages approximately a dozen points a game and compete for time in the second unit backcourt with Corey Brewer, K.J. McDaniels, and Patrick Beverley.
Hopefully the version of our $53 million man that we get is the guy behind Door No. 3, Beast Mode Eric Gordon, who averaged 22 points per game in the 2010-2011 season and can be a valuable second scoring option along with James Harden. If he starts in the backcourt with Harden — which he will to begin the year — he could be a part of one of the best starting backcourts in the West. With two capable, three-point volume shooters in Harden and Gordon, they would be right with the Clippers and Blazers the for the best backcourt in the West outside the Bay.
There is a chance we get the Gordon behind Door No. 3, because clearly that’s who the Rockets hope they have (and who they’re paying for). He was the centerpiece behind the Chris Paul trade and the then-New Orleans Hornets were looking to build their franchise around him.
A year later, they drafted Anthony Davis and hoped he would be able to be a good complement to their new franchise player. He had several shaky seasons and, four years later, New Orleans let him walk. Now the Rockets are a chance for Gordon to revive his career.
Gordon definitely improves the Rockets’ three-point shooting, and the signing of the Pelicans’ two best three-point shooters shows the Rockets’ intent to try to beat teams in a shootout. I think there is a great chance that Gordon could be the Rockets’ second-leading scorer this season. He fits well in D’Antoni’s system and has shown signs of promise in the preseason.
In the first game against Gordon’s former team in China, the Rockets and the Pelicans were going down to the wire with minutes to play. The Rockets kept calling Harden’s number, but he failed to finish. There were several possessions that went without a score on both sides with the Pelicans up two, but when Harden was taking the ball on a fast break, he didn’t drive in like he did many times last season. He dished it out to Gordon who was standing right on the perimeter. Swish.
The Rockets took the lead and never gave it up. Harden finished the game with 26 points and 15 assists, and Gordon finished with 24 points. If Gordon is involved heavily in the Rockets offense, and he and Harden can combine for 50 every night, it will be very difficult for anybody to beat the Rockets. He could be the equivalent of what Raja Bell was for the Suns in the mid-2000s. Bell was Steve Nash’s backcourt mate and was one of the best three-point shooters in the league.
Bell was also seen as the Suns’ tough guy. Patrick Beverley fills that role for this team already, but with Beverley out for the first part of the year at least, hopefully Gordon will be able to fill those shoes. The Rockets will really miss Bev’s ability to become a nuisance for the other team. Gordon is not as gifted in the defensive department as Beverley, but hopefully he can disrupt the flow of the other team with his three-point shooting.
Gordon can be one of the sneakiest signings of the summer if he can average close to 20 points per game. In a perfect world, he helps the Rockets shoot up the standings in the West. In the real world, he probably averages 10-15 points and is a solid contributor for a Rockets team that flirts with playoff contention all season long.