Continuing our December 15th trade season special, we move on to another Eric Gordon trade. We started the endeavor looking at Gordon’s trade value and then looked at a trade that would send him to the New York Knicks for picks and Evan Fournier’s salary. The deal wasn’t designed to net the Houston Rockets a player of interest but was instead an avenue for them to maximize draft pick compensation.
Eric Gordon is the perfect complimentary player next to a superstar. He has tremendous shooting gravity to space the floor for the league’s most dangerous scorers but can also run a few possessions to ease their offensive burden. Finding players that can handle the ball and space the floor is difficult mid-season because just about every contending team can’t have enough of them.
The Clippers need an offensive jolt
The Los Angeles Clippers are rounding into form, but their offense is still in desperate need of an upgrade. Having Kawhi Leonard for ten games has certainly hurt, but their 28th-ranked offense suggests flaws that run deeper than one player. Gordon would give the Clippers another ball handler to their point guard by committee approach, and he’s an excellent fit next to both Leonard and Paul George.
Not only is Gordon a great fit in Los Angeles, but Los Angeles is also a great fit for Gordon. The Clippers are incredibly deep and use that depth to constantly give players a night off. Gordon turns 34 on Christmas day, and landing on a contender that can keep him fresh for the playoffs is the best way to maximize his impact.
Why the Clippers would target Eric Gordon
This trade sees Norman Powell head to Houston and Gordon head to Los Angeles. Powell has been injured this season and may struggle to find minutes when he comes back. In a vacuum, he might be a better player than Gordon, but he isn’t quite what the Clippers need right now. Gordon is not an elite playmaker, but he is better than Powell and brings many of the same shooting qualities.
One of the Clippers' most significant issues is they don’t have a point guard who can consistently shoot and pass. John Wall still has his playmaking chops, but his jumper is inconsistent, and Reggie Jackson can shoot, but his playmaking and rim pressure leave something to be desired. Gordon is a go-between the two and would add another tool to one of the league’s most versatile teams.
Why the Rockets would want Norman Powell
The angle for the Rockets in this trade is that Powell is younger, cheaper, and potentially a better player than Gordon. Some fans might have misgivings about his contract having three more years left on it after this season, but that’s not the right way to think about it.
The Rockets will still have mountains of cap space in 2023, even if they have Powell. Also, he’s the exact type of veteran player the fan base has been clamoring for, so why not get one a half-season earlier? Powell’s deal isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, which is one of the reasons the Clippers may be interested in this deal, but the Rockets have the ability to be patient in a way the Clippers cannot.
If Powell thrives in Houston, with where the cap is projected to go, he could become a valuable trade chip. His $20.4 million salary in 2025-26 may seem like a large number, but it has him pegged as the 21st highest-paid guard in the league, and that’s before any extensions or free agent signings in the summers of 2023, 2024, and 2025. In three offseasons, Powell’s deal could be a relative bargain, and if not, it’ll be an excellent matching salary in a superstar trade.
The potential stumbling blocks
I’m not sure if either team would bite on this deal. The Clippers may value the length of Powell’s contract and believe he is simply better than Eric Gordon, and the Rockets might be prioritizing draft pick compensation and future financial flexibility above all else. However, I do think this is a trade that could benefit both sides. Gordon gives the Clippers more of what they need and gives them more future financial flexibility, and Powell is the right type of veteran asset for the Rockets to target as a player who can help them now and still have trade value down the line.