While Eric Gordon has more to offer the Houston Rockets, the need for size in the starting lineup could result in Danuel House getting the starting nod eventually.
Danuel House Jr. had an up-and-down first season with the Houston Rockets. Coming off an entire season in Washington where the Houston-native played a grand total of one minute followed by appearing in just 23 games for the Phoenix Suns, House had much to prove upon returning to his hometown to play for the Rockets.
In March of this year, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni gave House an opportunity he wasn’t expecting, starting him just two days after his return to the team from the G-League. As the Houston Chronicle reported, D’Antoni was effectively killing two birds with one stone by resting Chris Paul while getting a closer look at his options down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.
While the news surprised House, he thrived in his changing role with the team, averaging 9.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds in 13 starts for H-Town. Danuel also hit on 41.6 percent of his 3-pointers last season, which lead the team. On a squad that leads the league in 3-point attempts basically every season, his accuracy from downtown made a big difference.
When May came around, unfortunately, the injury bug visited the flourishing Texas A&M graduate. House suffered a foot injury during the Rockets’ second-round matchup with the Golden State Warriors that caused him to miss the last four games of their six-game series with the defending champs. The injury came after a separate knee injury in April that also led to a decrease in production from Danuel.
Going into the 2019-20 season fully healthy, Danuel House Jr. is primed to have a big year with the new-look Rockets. Russell Westbrook is an assist machine and will shine even more with an efficient outside shooter like House on the perimeter. Of course, veteran Eric Gordon has shot at a 37.4 percent clip over an 11-year career so he isn’t exactly a slouch on that end either. When you look further, however, starting Eric does create a separate problem.
As we recently covered, Mike D’Antoni knows that defensive rebounding was a major issue with the Rockets last season, as they finished tied for 29th in the league in that category. Much of this can be attributed to Houston’s small-ball style of play, which includes sharpshooter Eric Gordon, that aims to outscore you from the outside. Over his limited time in the league, Danuel House has averaged 3.4 rebounds per game to Gordon’s 2.5, which can obviously be attributed to his three-inch advantage over Eric.
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House’s height would not only be advantageous toward better rebounding but could improve overall defense against a small forward position that is ever-growing. The NBA seems to be on a one-way path towards bigger, stronger and more powerful players at all positions, and the Rockets quite simply might not be able to afford to have such a small lineup when they face these bigger teams.
While starting Eric Gordon along with James Harden and Russell Westbrook has a strong potential for early offensive barrages, Mike D’Antoni may soon realize that when the shots aren’t falling, the defense may not be sufficiently equipped to make up for such a problem. While offense continues to rise every season, defense still wins championships.
Given that Coach D’Antoni recently stated he expects Eric to start at small forward next season, that’s probably what you will see come October. While Russell Westbrook will certainly help with the defensive rebounding issue the Rockets had last season, he still is only one man. If Houston starts the season off losing the rebounding battle on most nights, don’t be surprised to see Mike D’Antoni experiment with House as a starter next season.
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Considering Eric Gordon has already been a Sixth Man of the Year once in his career, moving him to the bench could end up being a brilliant move by the Rockets.