The Houston Rockets currently have the league’s worst offensive rating. Their 98.4 points per 100 possessions, if it holds, would be the worst offensive rating since the 2014-15 Philadelphia 76ers posted a 95.5 offensive rating.
The Rockets’ defensive is by no means stout, but their 20th ranked defense is not the problem. For the Rockets to be competitive at an NBA level, they need to improve their offense. Luckily for them, the key to a turnaround is right on their bench.
Eric Gordon makes the Rockets’ offense work. Of the Rockets’ eight five-man lineups with positive net ratings, Gordon features in six of them. Which makes it no surprise that he’s second on the team in on/off net-rating at +12.4 points per 100 possessions.
When Gordon is on the court, the Rockets go from the worst team in the league, to just run-of-the-mill bad. The Rockets’ improvement with Gordon largely hinges on how he improves their offense.
How Eric Gordon unlocks the Houston Rockets offense
The Rockets’ offensive rating without Gordon is 95.4 points, and with him, it’s 102.8 points. The reason he improves the offense is incredibly simple, his 3-point shot is a weapon. Not only does he hit his threes, but defenses have to account for him, which opens up the floor for everyone else.
Gordon is shooting 46.4-percent from 3-point range, that type of efficiency will help any offense, but it’s the spacing he creates for his teammates that is the real game-changer. When Gordon is on the court the Rockets at rim shot frequency is 40.2-percent, and when he sits it’s 37.7-percent.
The benefits for the offense don’t stop there. The Rockets draw more shooting fouls (from 9.7% to 12.6%), their average two-point distance improves ( from 5.1 feet to 4.2), and most crucially, the turnovers per 100 possessions drop ( from 19.7 to 16.9).
Here's a simple pick-and-roll with Gordon and Christian Wood. Notice how far the defender defends Gordon behind the 3-point line, and then how quickly Wood's defender steps to prevent Gordon from shooting. All of the attention Gordon gets gives Wood a clean run way to get to the rim.
Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon is the key to the Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr backcourt
Perhaps the most consequential benefit Gordon has on the Rockets’ offense is how he makes the Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr partnership passable. In the 243 minutes that Green and Porter have shared the court without Gordon, the Rockets’ offensive rating is 93.3 points. When Gordon is inserted into the equation the Rockets offensive rating jumps to 104.8.
Eric Gordon won’t turn the Rockets’ offense into a juggernaut. However, his presence makes their offense go from “the process” 76ers to slightly better than worst. Factor in how he helps the Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr partnership and it’s a no-brainer to insert Gordon into the starting lineup.