The Eric Gordon trade primer 

N.B. Lindberg
Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets
Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages
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Eric Gordon has been a trade candidate from the moment James Harden decided he wanted out of Houston. In the nearly two years since, Gordon has remained a Rocket and has continued to do what he does best, namely bombing threes and attacking the rim. 

Gordon’s game is well-defined, but there’s an argument to be made that he’s just capable offensively now as he was when he won Sixth Man of the Year in 2016-17. He has posted the two highest effective field goal percentages of his career over the past two seasons season, and that’s without the help of James Harden’s playmaking and scoring gravity.

In many ways, Gordon is the perfect complimentary piece for any contender in search of an offensive jolt. Even when his 3-ball isn’t falling, defenders still contest his shot well beyond the arc. He can run the offense for spells, and over the past three seasons, he has posted his three best 2-point field goal percentages in his career. The reality for role players is they have to be capable of hitting the most efficient shots, and Gordon is one of the best in the business. 

Eric Gordon’s contract remains an obstacle

The only reason Gordon has lasted this long in Houston is because of his contract. He’s owed $19.5 million this season, but his $20.9 million salary for 2023-24 is non-guaranteed, effectively making him an expiring contract. In seasons prior, teams were wary of inheriting the remaining guaranteed money on his deal because an injury or a dip in production could be devastating. 

Fortunately, the Rockets’ gambit paid off. Gordon has remained healthy and played exceptionally well. Now that he has reached the final stages of his deal, his trade value has likely increased, but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t hurdles. 

The primary problem for a contender trading for Gordon has to do with outgoing salary. While there are exceptions, for the most part, NBA players are paid according to their talents. $19.5 million in outgoing salary usually equates to real NBA talent. Any team that is taking on Gordon and offloading a first-round pick will need to have around $19.5 million in overpriced NBA talent, which is rarer than you would think. 

This creates another hurdle. Do the Rockets want overpriced talent? The Rockets have the most dead money in the league and are poised to have the most cap space in the NBA in the summer of 2023. Is a first-round pick worth jeopardizing that? We may soon find out. 

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