With the Houston Rockets being hard-capped and facing tough salary cap financial limitations, they could open up more flexibility by moving Eric Gordon’s salary.
The Houston Rockets entered 2020 free agency in familiar territory, as they were limited financially, due to their collection of salaries. While many in the fanbase have grown accustomed to blaming ownership for the lack of spending, specifically in regards to the luxury tax, this situation is much different.
The Rockets are hard-capped, in large part because of the $41 million salaries for James Harden and Russell Westbrook, which is the cost of having multiple superstars. The Rockets had $129.9 million invested in nine players after making the major acquisition of Christian Wood, who was acquired through a sign and trade deal, which was made possible by the Robert Covington trade, as it carried a trade exception of $12.8 million.
The Rockets have since added Sterling Brown, in addition to selecting Kenyon Martin Jr. in last week’s NBA Draft, raising their payroll to an estimated $132 million, which is a number that will go up with the addition of Jae’Sean Tate, whose contract details haven’t been made official yet. This gives the Rockets an estimated $2.6 million worth of breathing room to play with in order to round out their roster, which could prove difficult, as they still need a reserve big man and point guard.
The Rockets could give themselves significant breathing room by offloading Eric Gordon‘s $16.8 million salary, which would allow them to add players without being handicapped to just veteran-minimum deals. Such a move would be perceived by many as another jab at ownership being frugal, but it would essentially allow the franchise to spend more money on better players, as opposed to bringing in inexpensive veterans.
The question is which players would the Rockets pursue by making the move at this point? Most of the top free agents are off the market and the Rockets could address both of their roster needs by signing veteran, proven players on minimum deals, so why deal Gordon now?
If the Rockets were interested in Bogdan Bogdanovich, trading Gordon’s salary would have helped them enter into the Bogi sweepstakes, as he agreed to a four-year offer sheet of $72 million with the Atlanta Hawks, which the Rockets would have been able to offer by offloading Gordon’s contract.
Should the Houston Rockets trade Eric Gordon?
But with Bogdanovich likely out of the mix, is it too late to deal EG? And would it be in the best interest of the team to do so?
It would essentially depend on how James Harden feels about Gordon, as the top priority for the franchise should be to convince Harden that the Rockets are a championship contender, and to continue to surround him with players he believes will help move the needle and contend with the Lakers, who will likely sit atop the Western Conference again after bringing in the likes of Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, and Dennis Schroeder.
Gordon was a shell of himself during the 2019-20 season, as he battled injuries, which limited him to 31.7 percent from deep and 36.9 percent from the floor, which was a career-low. In spite of Gordon’s regular season struggles, the Rockets saw a reinvigorated version of him during the Western Conference Semifinals against the Lakers, as he averaged 16.2 points on 42.1 percent from long-range, which was second best on the team, behind only Robert Covington.
At this point, Gordon’s value isn’t exactly high, so the Rockets would essentially be just dealing him to create more salary for other players, as opposed to landing draft capital in return, which they need more of, and could successfully pull off after a bounce-back 2020-21 season.
At the end of the day, if the Houston Rockets feel there is a player, or a group of players, on the market that’s better than Gordon, who could occupy a similar role, then trading him would figure to be a no-brainer. But it ultimately depends heavily on what Harden thinks about such a move.