Dec 21, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets E. Gordon (10) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Rockets defeated the Suns 125-111. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Gordon was a key contributor for the Houston Rockets all season long. This article relives his fantastic season from start to finish.
We’ll continue our player-by-player season recaps with the likely Sixth Man of the Year, Eric Gordon. The sharpshooter wasn’t always supposed to join the Houston Rockets, though. It seemed as if the Rockets’ first choice free agent this past offseason was Kent Bazemore. But after Bazemore decided to sign back with the Hawks, Houston had to change its plans.
It did not take long after striking out on Bazemore to sign Eric Gordon to a four-year deal. The signing came with many different questions. Was Gordon able to stay healthy for an entire season? What would his role be with James Harden on the team?
Despite the questions surrounding the new signing, Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey knew his newest player would bring success. He had confidence in Gordon from the start by calling Gordon a “super sub off the bench.” Fortunately, Gordon bought into the sixth man role and lived up to Morey’s preseason comments. He made major contributions off the bench all season while avoiding the injuries he faced in the early years of his career.
After one season, it is clear that Eric Gordon has found a perfect fit in Houston. He is not only a super sub that Daryl Morey desired in the offseason, but could also be the best reserve in the entire league. After the season he had, Gordon is a frontrunner for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Let’s take a closer look at what EG did for the team this season.
Next: Overall Impact
Dec 16, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Eric G. shoots the ball during the third quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Gordon’s prolific three point shooting was a perfect fit with Mike D’Antoni’s offense.
It was no secret that the Rockets loved to shoot three pointers this season. No team has ever averaged more three point shot attempts than the Rockets in 2016-2017. With Gordon’s elite shooting, he was able to make an instant impact.
Gordon’s three point ability came in a variety of ways. He could hit threes off a pass from a teammate or pull up from deep off the dribble. It really did not matter. The only thing he had to do was be ready and willing to shoot the ball. Even when a game was on the line against the Golden State Warriors, EG was ready.
Eric Gordon's THREE ties the game at 121 with 1:25 left in OT! https://t.co/VoUMtTCicv
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 2, 2016
With the freedom to shoot, Mike D’Antoni‘s system allowed Gordon to succeed as a three point shooter. He finished third in the league in regular season three point field goals made per game, trailing only Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
EG brought more than just three point shooting.
Aside from three point shooting, Gordon showed flashes of being the second playmaker that the Rockets needed to compliment Harden. He could slash inside and create some of his own offense when Harden was out. This monstrous dunk in Game 5 of the Thunder series is only just a taste of this talent.
Okay. Maybe he doesn’t dunk it this hard on all of his drives to the basket. Dunk or layup, Gordon proved to be a versatile weapon with a fantastic finishing ability inside. The capability to score effectively amongst the trees is a great compliment to Gordon’s elite three point shooting.
Next: Best/Worst Moments
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
Eric Gordon had lots of great moments in his first year as a Houston Rocket, but struggled at times as well.
Best moment: Being the first in franchise history to win the 3-Point Contest
The three point contest was fun to watch as a Rockets fan because Eric Gordon was able to showcase his three point accuracy on the big stage. Before this year’s All-Star Weekend, many fans did not know how much of a lights out shooter Eric Gordon is from deep. Coming into the contest alongside seven other premier shooters, Gordon was not the favorite to win it all. Many had Klay Thompson defending his title as the league’s best shooter.
It was only a matter of time before Gordon showed the world his shooting ability. He was able to make it to the championship round tying Kyrie Irving with 20 points apiece. In the tiebreaker round, Gordon outshot Irving and was named the league’s newest three point champion.
While winning the contest does not yield any benefit to the team, it provides bragging rights. In just one night, fans saw how good EG is from deep. The accolade was well deserved by a player who shot so well for the Rockets. It even pumped up James Harden as a fan on the sideline.
— NBA (@NBA) February 19, 2017
Worst moment: Cold January shooting:
Finding a lowlight was hard for EG this season. But if there was one bad moment, it was his cold shooting in January. By looking at Gordon’s month by month three point percentage, it is easy to see how off he got. Below are three point percentages for each month where he logged more than 50 attempts:
Month 3P% (3PM/3PA) November 40% (48/120) December 46% (75/164) January 29% (40/134) February 34% (23/67) March 38% (41/109)
After shooting the lights out in December, it was inevitable that Gordon would come back down to Earth. Obviously everybody is going to have a slump every once in a while. For Gordon, this cold shooting spell came in January. Despite the rough patch, EG was able to continually improve his three point shooting for the rest of the season.
Next: How Gordon Can Improve
Feb 23, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (center) talks with guard L. Williams (12) and center C. Capela (15) and guard Eric Gordon (10) in the second half against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. The Rockets won 129-99. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Onto the next season. How can Eric Gordon improve on his excellent 2016-2017 campaign?
Eric Gordon was fantastic all year long so there really are no major changes he needs to make this offseason aside from general improvement. One thing he could work on, however, is to continue to improve his chemistry with Lou Williams.
For the majority of the season, Gordon was the cornerstone of the Rockets’ bench unit. It was not until the trade deadline when Lou Williams joined him. Because they played limited time together, it would be beneficial to get more court time with each other this summer. With both elite bench players on the same page, the sky’s the limit for how good the Rockets’ second group can be.
Other than continual improvement and staying healthy, Gordon is a vital piece to the Rockets’ success. If he plays like he did last year, Houston will likely have the same success that they did this year, if not better.
James Harden summed Gordon’s contributions to the Rockets when he said that EG should be an All-Star:
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"“All-Star for sure. Especially with the record that we have right now. I mean, he sacrificed for the team. Obviously, he can start, but he sacrifices, comes off the bench, and he plays extremely well. He’s definitely an All-Star-caliber player troubled by injuries in his previous years, but he’s healthy, he feels great, he’s playing great.”"
Gordon truly was a great addition to a team that was not predicted to be anywhere near the top three in the entire NBA. Without the signing of Eric Gordon, the Houston Rockets would have had a hard time replicating what they were able to do this season.
Stay tuned to Space City Scoop for more Houston Rockets coverage as we continue our player-by-player season recaps.