In a recent interview, Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said guard Eric Gordon is expected to start this season but left some room for doubt.
Among other topics, Coach D’Antoni addressed the looming question regarding the starting lineup heading into the 2019-20 season. While Russell Westbrook, James Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Clint Capela are locks to start for the Rockets, there has been debate regarding whether Danuel House or Eric Gordon will be joining them at small forward.
When asked about the fifth starter, Mike D’Antoni had this to say to Ackerman (Gordon comments start at 14:20 of episode 33):
“Right now, Eric’s our starter. We’ll talk about it, and that could be an area that we work with. But again, I have to talk to Eric and we’ll see. The biggest thing about playing in the NBA is having confidence and feeling comfortable. You’re just gassed up every game to go play. I’m not coming in and saying this is how it’s gonna be. We’ll find the best way, but sometimes it takes some finesse and some sacrificing. We’ll figure it out.”
While making it clear that Gordon is expected to start as of now, D’Antoni proclaiming the situation is an area Houston can work with can mean a couple of things.
For one, it’s possible that as the season approaches, the coaching staff may change its minds and opt for size over speed, meaning Gordon would come off the bench. One of the biggest weaknesses Houston had last season was their defensive rebounding.
At 31.9 rebounds per game, the Rockets were tied for 29th in the league. Starting the 6-7 forward Danuel House over the 6-4 Eric Gordon could help when it comes to improving team rebounding, and may end up being the best option for Houston considering their already small lineup.
A second possibility this season is that the Rockets make a lineup change during the regular season based on trends they notice. On the podcast, D’Antoni makes it known that even he is unsure about how his team will look in the beginning.
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It’s quite possible that Russell Westbrook’s rebounding prowess alone can alleviate Houston’s rebounding struggles, meaning Gordon can stay in the starting lineup without a problem.
On the other hand, facing bigger teams could cause a recurrence of the same issues the Rockets had last season, and House may need to be put into play.
While he didn’t note as much in the interview, Mike may even want to consider taking a page out of Gregg Popovich‘s book and altering his starting lineup based on that evening’s opponent.
Any way you look at it, the Gordon vs. House situation is a win-win for the Rockets. Despite struggling with injury and not being able to play well last playoffs, House had a good season and would bring some needed size to the starting lineup.
Seeing as Gordon already has one NBA Sixth Man of the Year trophy in his case, he would thrive as the leader of the second unit. Putting Gordon in the starting lineup would give Houston three-and-a-half threats from 3-point range (Russ has some work to do.) Also, Eric’s presence with the rest of the starters would assuredly mean they employ their run and gun style to its fullest potential right off the bat.
While D’Antoni will have a decision to make come October, the good news is there doesn’t seem to be a wrong choice.