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Rockets 2021-2022 player previews: Eric Gordon

Wither Gordon? Gordon withering?

How now, Eric? POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Just how does one preview Eric Gordon’s upcoming season? How much longer is he a Rocket?

There are two obvious tracks for Gordon. One, he plays for the Rockets, all or a large part of the year. Two, he gets traded. Those tracks diverge a bit more, and merge a bit in certain ways.

It’s fair to think the Rockets would like to get Eric Gordon playing time to, as many have said, “showcase” him for a trade. It’s also fair to think the Rockets want to risk a Gordon injury as little as possible to do so. They also will be hoping that they get a Good Gordon streak to start the season, and they won’t have to wait for second-half of the season Gordon hot streak. Few players can be either as cold, or hot, as Eric Gordon.

Somehow it works out in the aggregate. After seeing his stats decline from a Rockets-tenure high in 2017-18, Eric Gordon had a brief return to form last season. Brief because it was cut short, almost certainly shorter than strictly necessary, by injury.

Gordon was averaging 17.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and .5 stealsl and blocks last year. His three-point shooting declined from his career average of around 37 percent to around 33 percent. I do wonder if he got a lot more defense attention on the perimeter as being, really, the only competent and established, perimeter shooter on the Rockets? The reason I consider that a real possibility, the idea that defenses were loading up on his shot, with no James Harden to distract them, was that Gordon shot a career high percentage on two-point shots.

This suggests to me, along with my observation of his play, that when Gordon was forced off the three-point line, or was well-guarded there, he scored at, or near, the basket at a higher percentage than at any time previously in his career. His career two-point percentage is .478, and his ‘20-’21 percentage was .573 - and not on a particularly low number of attempts, considering total games played. That’s a considerable increase, his performance last season suggests a player whose skills aren’t in decline.

Gordon, moreover, produces his numbers without an especially high usage percentage for that output. He was around 25 percent last year, which is on the high side for him. He’s never exceeded that as a Rocket and was only close in his best year. That is to say, Gordon’s scoring output is quite good, when considering his usage.

Moreover, he’s happy creating and scoring off the ball. He doesn’t need to constantly have the ball in his hands to do damage, and his skills would fit nearly any offense. He plays decent to good defense, and with his strength and solid build, can switch up to the small forward position without much trouble. If he’s asked to be the primary scorer, he can do that, especially if he’s being set up to do so. It’s worthwhile to remember that pretty much the only play set up for Gordon as a Rocket was “hang out three feet past the three-point line”.

Gordon’s salary and years remaining are on market and in line with equivalent or lesser players who signed deals for similar years and dollars in this off-season (Fournier, Trent, etc).

At this point it seems safe to assume that Eric Gordon will play at least some for the Rockets. No trade appears imminent. 107 NBA players who recently signed contracts can’t be traded until December 15. There are a few more players who can be traded roughly at the end of December. When thinking about trade partners, only two teams do not have any such players: Memphis, and Minnesota. Even the Rockets have a player ineligible to be traded until mid-December in Daniel Theis.

It’s difficult to know how much Gordon will play and when (or I suppose “if”) he’s traded. It seems clear he belongs on another team. The most obvious candidate to me at present is Dallas. Luka Doncic would, like James Harden, absolutely thrive with Eric Gordon hanging around three feet from the three-point line. Yes, Dallas has Tim Hardaway Jr, but replacing Dorian Finney-Smith with Eric Gordon would seem an upgrade, with three real shooters on the court with Luka (presuming we can call Porzingis a “real shooter”).

Seeing Eric Gordon on Dallas wouldn’t even hurt. His timeline is so different from that of the Rockets, I only hope he finds a good landing spot that will make the best use of his, to my mind, popularly undervalued abilities.

In the meantime, it would seem Eric Gordon will remain a Rocket until mid-December at the earliest (I already discussed a silly swap of Gordon for Ben Simmons. Not sure how many other deals would go before mid-December.)

Poll

Eric Gordon Trade?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Before Mid December
    (6 votes)
  • 16%
    Around Mid December
    (13 votes)
  • 37%
    Around the Trade Deadline
    (29 votes)
  • 10%
    Next Off-Season
    (8 votes)
  • 5%
    Never
    (4 votes)
  • 22%
    When Luka tells Cuban to do it.
    (17 votes)
77 votes total Vote Now