According to a recent report, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni is considering starting Eric Gordon and bringing Carmelo Anthony in off the bench as a sixth man.
At Media Day on Monday, Carmelo Anthony told reporters that he is willing to come off the bench or do anything to help the Rockets win a championship.
He just might get his wish.
According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Mike D’Antoni is considering starting Eric Gordon and bringing Carmelo Anthony in as a sixth man.
Nothing is set in stone, but this is how the Rockets’ rotation looks to be shaping up. pic.twitter.com/FMwWJmsESB
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) September 26, 2018
As MacMahon mentioned, the combination of Eric Gordon, James Harden and Chris Paul had a lot of success together on the floor last season. Together, the trio out scored their opponents by a ridiculous 28.9 points per 100 possessions and they also put up 134.7 points per 100 possessions. These are video game numbers and its easy to see why Coach D’Antoni is considering starting Gordon. Although, I’m not sure its the right move.
Sure, this trio had some success last season, but they only played 148 minutes together. For reference, Paul, Harden and Clint Capela played 736 minutes together last season, even though Paul missed 24 games and played limited minutes throughout parts of the season. Paul, Gordon and Harden have looked good together, but their lofty numbers are coming from a very small sample size. It’s hard to say they’d have that much success together over the course of an entire season.
After the Rockets lost two key defenders in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute over the summer, many have wondered if Houston can continue to play elite level defense going forward. If the Rockets decide to start Gordon, then their lack of perimeter lockdown defenders could become an even bigger problem.
All of the elite teams in the NBA have talented wings. With this proposed starting lineup, the Rockets would only be starting one forward in P.J. Tucker. In that case, Houston would have a big size disadvantage.
When Houston faces Boston, who will likely start Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford in the front court, who will defend Tatum? Assuming Paul takes Kyrie Irving and P.J. Tucker takes Gordon Hayward, then Harden and Gordon will defend Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Boston has the size advantage in both of those matchups.
When Houston plays Toronto, if Tucker defends Kawhi Leonard, then either Harden or Gordon has to take Serge Ibaka, which makes for a sizeable mismatch on the glass. If Coach D’Antoni decides to place Tucker on Ibaka instead for rebounding and post defense, then Harden or Gordon will have to guard Kawhi Leonard. I’m not a big fan of that matchup.
In a league where most great teams have elite forwards, it’ll take some creativity to defend at a high level while starting three guards. Starting James Ennis along P.J. Tucker is probably the best way for Houston to match up with teams that are particularly talented at the forward positions.
Starting Gordon over Ennis would improve Houston’s spacing and offense, but with Paul and Harden on the floor, the Rockets will never struggle to score. Besides, Gordon came in early in the first quarter for Paul last season and he averaged 31.2 minutes per game, so he has plenty of playing time.
The Paul, Harden and Gordon lineup will excel against many teams, but they will struggle to matchup defensively against the best teams in the NBA. And for a contender like Houston, matching up well against the elite teams is all that really matters.