Currently riding an 18 game losing streak with an 11-28 record, the Houston Rockets will likely be sellers at this year’s NBA trade deadline — set for March 25. And with rumors that Houston may move on from Victor Oladipo and other veterans, the Rockets have their eyes set on acquiring younger assets in a potential trade instead of building their draft capital.
One player the Rockets may try and make a move for is Orlando Magic high-flyer Aaron Gordon. According to Chris Hayes of Yahoo Sports, the Rockets are one of five teams that have inquired about trading for Gordon at the deadline.
In his seventh season with the Magic, Gordon is in the midst of a mediocre year. He is averaging 13.6 points while shooting 42.3 percent from the floor, to go along with 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
Gordon’s points per game average mark is down. For the third consecutive year, his scoring took a decline from a career-best in 2018 (17.6 PPG). But a significant factor in Gordon’s lack of scoring in recent years has been the result of playing as the fourth option behind Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier and two-time All-Star Nikola Vučević.
According to reports, Gordon is ready for a change of scenery — which makes the Magic’s chances to retain his services highly unlikely with the 25-year-old forward set to become a free agent next summer.
Gordon will likely prefer a destination where his talents can flourish in an attempt to reach his full potential. Of all the five teams targeting the California native, Houston would be the best place of opportunity for Gordon. But on the flip side, is Gordon a great fit for the Rockets?
The answer is a bit twofold.
“The seven-year veteran is open to a change of scenery, with the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons inquiring about trading for the versatile high-flyer, league sources told Yahoo Sports.” — via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports
Adding Gordon’s talents to Houston’s roster will not make the team worse. After all, this is a Rockets squad that just set the franchise record for the longest losing streak in team history. Having a player like Gordon may have prevented the Rockets from falling deep into basketball purgatory. But his addition to the team will not move the needle on making the Rockets any better as well.
For starters, Gordon and Christian Wood are nearly identical players: two lob-threats who could stretch the floor and create for themselves off the dribble. Gordon and Wood would generate a solid frontcourt tandem while giving the Rockets an opportunity to have a versatile big on the floor at all times.
The most significant contribution Gordon would bring to the Rockets would be his playmaking ability. Although his career numbers do not tell the full story (2.5 APG), Gordon has continuously improved as a facilitator over the years — which has become the most underrated part of his game.
And then there is his play on the defensive side of the ball. Again, his career stats do not tell the narrative of Gordon’s defense. But his improvements have made him a player who can defend positions one through five — a tremendous quality for a team whose defensive identity relies upon a healthy amount of switching.
But the underlying issues with the Rockets on their pursuit of Gordon begins with his value and ends with his durability.
How much is too much for Gordon?
The Magic are seeking a “high draft asset” in return for Gordon. If the Rockets were not in the premature stages of a rebuild, flipping a draft pick for Gordon would not be an issue. However, given the Rockets’ current state, giving up a valuable draft pick for Gordon may be too much of a risk factor down the line.
The Rockets could explore flipping either Danuel House Jr. or Oladipo in-exchange for Gordon. But why would the Magic give up their most tradeable asset for two players — especially Oladipo — who may not last on the roster beyond the 2021 season?
The biggest risk factor in trading for Gordon is his health. Durability has always been the biggest knock against Gordon. He has never played all 82 games in a season, and a severely sprained ankle limited him to 20 games this season. In years prior, a plethora of lower leg injuries kept Gordon suited up on Orlando’s sidelined.
If the opportunity occurred, the Rockets may be better off not making a move for Gordon. His paring with Wood sounds pleasing. But Gordon’s arrival could come with Rafael Stone overpaying for a $16.4 million asset that could spend more time on the sideline than on the court of the Toyota Center.
However, should the Rockets find fit to acquire Gordon, it’s safe to say he could establish himself as one of the great dunkers in franchise history.