The Rockets are now 21 games into the 2016-2017 season. Continuing the Quarter Season Awards, Eric Gordon has become a potential to win Sixth Man of the Year.
Six years ago, Eric Gordon looked like the future of the NBA. In 2010-2011, he averaged 22.3 points per game on a struggling Los Angeles Clippers team and was thought by many to be on the cusp of superstardom. However, after the New Orleans Pelicans (still the Hornets back then) acquired him in 2011 via the Chris Paul trade, things went downhill.
Gordon only played nine games during the 2011-2012 campaign due to a knee injury, and since then has never appeared in more than 64 games in a season. Because of his storied habit of missing games, many questioned Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey when he signed Gordon to a four-year, $53 million deal this past summer.
If the signing was supposed to be a bad move on Houston’s part, though, somebody forgot to tell Gordon. Coming off the bench for the first time in his career, he’s been the perfect fit for the Rockets’ super-powered offense. He’s played significant minutes in every game so far and has relished his role of heading up the second group.
The season is far from over, but Eric Gordon looks as likely as anybody to come away with the Sixth Man of the Year award for 2016-2017. Continue reading to find out why.
Next: Stats don't lie
Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) drives to the basket against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Despite coming off the bench, Eric Gordon is second only to James Harden in scoring for the Rockets.
Though they don’t tell the whole story, stats are usually a good indicator of a player’s value. Eric Gordon is clearly as important to the Houston Rockets as anybody not named James Harden, and his numbers prove it. Below are some of his stats and how they rank with other players on his team:
16.6 points per game – second
3.2 threes per game – first (and second overall in the entire league)
2.6 assists per game – third
22.6% usage rate – second
31.3 minutes per game – third
Compared to other Sixth Man of the Year winners, Gordon holds his own quite nicely. His average of 16.6 points per game is better than 15 of the previous 20 best Sixth Man seasons. He’s been even more prolific as of late, averaging 22 points over the past five games. Even more incredible than that is the fact that he’s shooting 49.9% from beyond the arc during that stretch.
If Gordon’s current five game streak continues, he’ll have a chance to distance himself from the competition. Sixth men with the best stats aren’t always given the award, but the best players coming off the bench usually have the better numbers than their peers.
Next: Team success matters
Nov 16, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) shoots the ball in front of Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo (5) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The NBA is notorious for individual awards only being given to players on good teams.
The logic is that if a player is truly deserving of an award, he would be doing enough for his team to make them respectable. One could argue that a player coming off the bench shouldn’t be judged by the overall success of his team, but a worthy Sixth Man of the Year candidate’s impact is usually more than even a few of the starters.
Nov 5, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) shoots the ball against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Houston Rockets are having one of their best seasons in years, on pace to win 56 games. They won 56 games in 2014-2015 and wound up in the Western Conference Finals. Their advanced offense is shooting–and making–a league leading amount of threes, and Eric Gordon is ahead of all other Rockets in that category.
If the league continues it’s habit of partiality to players on successful teams, then Gordon’s chances of taking the Sixth Man of the Year award will be brought up by his team’s number of wins.
Granted, the Rockets might not finish the season as well as they’ve started it, but Mike D’Antoni has shown that he knows exactly how to get the most out of his players. Harden’s balanced attack of scoring and passing leaves defenses without options every single night, and that doesn’t look like it’ll change anytime soon.
Next: Other guys who could win it
Dec 2, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Houston Rockets forward Sam Dekker (7) looks on as guard Eric Gordon (10) drives to the net against Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) and forward Wilson Chandler (21) and guard Jameer Nelson (1) in the third quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Rockets won 128-110. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Gordon definitely has potential to win Sixth Man of the Year, but he will not be a shoo-in if things stay the same.
Eric Gordon has plenty of time to continue to prove himself worthy of the award. He’ll have his work cut out for him, though, if wants to beat out Zach Randolph, Wilson Chandler, and Lou Williams. His recent performance is much better than the season averages of these players, but he’ll have to continue playing at the level he’s been hitting for the past few games to lock in the trophy.
The aging big man of the Memphis Grizzlies probably has the best chance to challenge Gordon for the moment, considering his per game averages of 14.1 points along with nearly 8 boards. However, the Grizzlies have consistently struggled with injury problems in the past. Zach Randolph will be lucky to make it through the season without either suffering from injury or taking the place of an injured teammate in the starting lineup.
The Denver Nuggets rely heavily on the all-around play of Wilson Chandler, and his efforts could be rewarded. His 18.2 points per game come from all over the floor, and he has an effective field goal percentage of 52.8%. His team is struggling with just eight wins so far, though, so that’ll have to change for him to have the benefit of the league’s aforementioned bias.
The Los Angeles Lakers‘ backup guard is no stranger to Sixth Man of the Year. Williams’s ability to take over games towards the end won him the award in 2015, and nothing has changed. Despite coming off the bench, he’s in the top ten in fourth quarter scoring. Chances are that he won’t continue to put up 38 or 40 points like he has over the past couple of games, but if he does, Gordon could be in trouble.
Next: Wrapping up
October 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) moves the ball up court against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Gordon will likely never be the superstar that he once had the potential to be. However, he does have a good chance to be a very significant part of a great team in Houston.
The Houston Rockets are undeniably James Harden’s team. He is an MVP candidate and one of the best players in the league. That doesn’t mean, though, that he’s the only guy on the roster who can play. Among others, Eric Gordon has proven himself to be a threat on a nightly basis. He’s easily capable of erupting for 20+, and has already done so five times this season.
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There are other players with better statistics, but no team is as dependent on their sixth man as the Rockets are on Gordon. Houston’s biggest issue over the past few seasons has been trying to stay afloat while Harden sits. With Gordon heading up the second unit, that hasn’t been nearly as much of a worry.
Houston’s bench, outside of Gordon, seriously lacks playmaking and scoring. If NBA awards voters look at sixth men’s importance to their squad, Gordon should have an advantage. Whether or not he ends up getting recognition for it, the Rockets are much better off having a sixth man they can rely on.
Tonight, Eric Gordon and the Rockets take on the Lakers. LA beat Houston on day one, so it’ll be an opportunity to avenge that loss Hopefully, the Lou vs. Eric battle will tip towards Houston.