Should the Houston Rockets start Eric Gordon again next season? Or should they start a bigger, more traditional small forward instead?
With free agency in the rear view mirror, the makeup of the Houston Rockets’ roster is mostly set in stone. There is still a possibility the team could add Andre Iguodala, but the Grizzlies are keeping the forward hostage and thus complicating the process for Houston, who doesn’t have many of the assets needed to make a trade for him.
While Houston’s rotation and player roles will be very similar to what we saw last year, Eric Gordon’s place in the rotation has been uncertain this summer. Will he start, or will he come off the bench and make another run for the Sixth Man of the Year Award?
Houston found a lot of success starting Gordon last season. When his shot was falling, he made Houston nearly impossible to slow down and his defense was huge against opposing guards.
However, forward Danuel House emerged as a viable option for Mike D’Antoni and after signing a long-term deal with Houston, there’s a solid possibility he could start at forward for the Rockets this season.
But according to The Athletic’s Alykhan Bijani (subscription required), Gordon is very likely to start again for the Rockets this season. The thought process behind this decision is that Westbrook, who seems to excel at everything besides shooting from distance, will benefit by playing with as many floor spacers as possible.
Last season, D’Antoni staggered James Harden and Chris Paul‘s minutes and CP3 usually ran the second unit at the start of the second and fourth quarters. We’ll probably see a similar thing with Westbrook this year, but it looks like Gordon will accompany Westbrook for the bulk of the time he’ll be on the floor.
We won’t be able to see how Westbrook fits with his new team until the season starts, but this seems like a smart move by D’Antoni. While House is a higher percentage 3-point shooter at 41.6 percent, Gordon is more of a volume 3-point shooter, as he has attempted 8.8 3s per game over the last three seasons. Not to mention, Gordon is a very good scorer in addition to being a good shooter, so he commands more respect from opposing defenses and will give Westbrook more room to work than any other player on the team not named James Harden.
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The downside to this move is that it makes Houston small. The Rockets are a very poor rebounding team and a lot of that has to do with the fact that they’re undersized at both forward positions.
Furthermore, in order to reach the NBA Finals, the Rockets will probably have to go through the Lakers or Clippers, or maybe both of those teams. The Clippers’ two best players are Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who are both big and lengthy forwards. The Lakers’ two best players are LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It’s unclear if Davis will start at center or power forward, however, he has made it clear that he prefers to play power forward. Either way, Houston’s forwards would be outsized in those matchups, which is never ideal against superstar players.
Despite those facts, starting Gordon is still the right move. The floor spacing, scoring and defense he provides Houston can’t be matched by House. And Westbrook has averaged at least 10.1 rebounds in three consecutive seasons, so he can help Houston on the boards.
Their performance in the postseason is what will ultimately define this Rockets team, but they’ll have to figure out how to matchup with the pair of forwards from each LA team if and when they meet in the playoffs. For now, Gordon deserves the starting spot.