While the rest of the Rockets’ mainstays seem to have found their groove after a shaky start to the season, veteran shooting guard Eric Gordon still doesn’t quite look the part of the perennial sixth-man of the year candidate fans have come to expect.
Following Saturday night’s loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, Gordon is averaging a pedestrian-by-his-standards 14.8 points per game to go along with a career-low 1.9 assists while shooting a 33.6 percent from the field (another career low) and 26% from three (almost a career low). In fact, up until recently, he held the worst three-point percentage of any player in the league attempting five or more threes a game.
Although there have been nights, such as the Cleveland game, where Gordon looks like his old self, they’ve been far from the norm. We’re almost a quarter of the way through the season and Gordon is yet to have consecutive games scoring 15 or more points. His inconsistency is emblematic of the Rockets’ season thus far.
So what’s wrong with The Hobbit (yes, that’s actually one of his obscure basketball reference nicknames)?
Well, it might sound too simple, but Gordon’s just missing shots. Per Synergy Sports efficiency data, he has fallen from a solid-based-on-his-volume-and-shot-selection 60th percentile in “catch and shoot” efficiency last season to a dreadful 13th percentile this year. For a player who relies heavily on beating closeouts and using the lack of space defenders give him to his advantage, having defenders close out short has ground his offense to a halt.
Due to his struggles, Gordon is shooting threes at a much lower rate than he ever has in Houston. This is leading to a much less efficient shot selection as he is replacing them with ill-fated drives that result in tough floaters (he’s doubled his shots from 3-10 feet compared to last season) or pick-and-rolls that don’t go anywhere (he’s dropped from 75th percentile to 12th in pick and roll efficiency).
However, when asked about his struggles, Gordon’s response suggests he is taking his issues in stride, telling the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigan “I can definitely be a lot better” and that his “number-one concern is winning”.
Despite what some hot-take bloggers may suggest on Twitter, any thoughts that Gordon is washed should be curbed for the time being. He is only 30 and his game isn’t too reliant on athleticism. When his decline actually comes, it will be far more gracious.
Yes, the start to the year has not been pretty, but Gordon is still scoring well in isolation and the Rockets are still 7.9 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court versus off of it. This is probably just a 15-20 game slump that we’ll all have forgotten about come the spring. Once Gordon finds his shot, his game should normalize.
If it doesn’t, it’s no secret that Gordon’s name has been floated in several Houston trade proposals. Daryl Morey won’t be afraid to make a deal, that’s for sure.
But for now, Saturday night’s 28-point outburst in Cleveland may have been the starting point of Gordon’s normalization.... at least we hope so for the Rockets’ sake.