Why Eric Gordon is the key to many of the Houston Rockets’ issues

Houston Rockets Eric Gordon (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Eric Gordon (Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets currently sit at 18-9 and fifth in the Western Conference standings, but they’ve been inconsistent all year and have been plagued by poor perimeter defense and inconsistent 3-point shooting. With the imminent return of Eric Gordon, the Rockets are hoping Gordon will be the solution to many of these issues.

When Eric Gordon’s returns, he will help improve the Houston Rockets’ shooting, in addition to their perimeter defense. But beyond that, Gordon’s presence will also help improve the Rockets’ bench. Gordon’s return will help ease some of the pressure off of players like Ben McLemore and Austin Rivers, which will help balance the Houston Rockets second unit going forward.

For starters, Gordon brings a consistent shooter, as he is a career 37.2 percent shooter from downtown, in addition to being a former 3-point champion. Simply put, when Gordon is on the floor, he’s one of the best shooters in the league.

Gordon got off to a slow start this season, as he shot only 28.4 percent from deep through nine games. It was later discovered that he was battling an injury, as he ultimately had knee surgery which surely played a large part in his shooting woes.

During the 2019 postseason, Gordon was the second-best player for the Rockets, as he was able to stretch the defense and gave James Harden another outlet when faced with the double teams. This proved to be pivotal during the closing minutes of the Rockets’ games. Gordon is one of the few players who would have the green light to shoot from 30 feet without it being frowned upon.

Gordon’s ability to extend opposing defenses further out would be a major boost, as the Rockets have missed this threat. This season the Rockets’ 3-point shooting has been inconsistent, as McLemore and PJ Tucker have been the only players aside from James Harden who have shot respectable from 3-point range. As a team, the Rockets are shooting 34.5 percent from deep which is 24th in the league. The Rockets are surely hoping Gordon returns to his previous year form and becomes the boost the Rockets need from 3-point range.

Perimeter defensive help

The Houston Rockets’ perimeter defense has been poor this year, to say the least. When opposing guards face the Rockets, they’re surely shooting with confidence from downtown, as the Rockets present no fear of defensive pressure. This year, the Rockets currently rank 17th in opponents’ 3-point percentage, which is actually better than they’ve looked. While their ranking doesn’t seem horrible, the greater problem is the fact that the Rockets’ outside defense only ranks 27th in 3-point attempts. The Rockets are allowing opposing teams to shoot 35.9 percent from deep, but they’re giving up a lot of attempts, which negates shooting percentages.

In the 2019 opening postseason series against the Utah Jazz, Gordon proved his ability to shut down elite offensive players, which was most evident in Donovan Mitchell‘s play. During that series, Mitchell went 24-for-90 from the field when matched against Gordon, which is only 26.7 percent.  At 6-foot-4, Gordon gives the Rockets another perimeter defender with the size to handle small forwards as well.

The Rockets have also made it known that they want to rest Russell Westbrook on back to back nights, which has been problematic for the Rockets. A recent example of how this strategy has hindered the Rockets was the recent loss to the Detroit Pistons. Although Harden scored 39 points, he was essentially on his own, as no other Rocket seemed to be able to score. Gordon provides another scoring threat in addition to a reliable ball-handler who can get his own shot. Even when Westbrook does play, the Rockets still lack play-makers on the roster. If Gordon is healthy, he would instantly become the Rockets’ third-best scorer and play-maker.

With Gordon’s slow start to the year, many fans may have forgotten just how important he is to the Rockets’ success. At times Gordon can perform like an All-Star, as he provides the Rockets with another shooter. If there is a team that can never have too many shooters, it’s certainly the Rockets, especially in D’Antoni’s offensive scheme.

Recently Mike D’Antoni spoke with Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic regarding Gordon’s role upon his return.

I asked Coach D’Antoni if Eric Gordon will start or come off the bench upon his return from injury. His quick answer: “bench”. Gordon will once again become a 6th man. #Rockets

— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) December 18, 2019

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Only time will tell if Gordon will get back to his Sixth Man of the Year form, but the Rockets’ best chance to win the title hinges on the play of Gordon moving forward.