Houston Rockets: One simple fix to get Eric Gordon back on track

Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings
Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings / Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Now that the Houston Rockets and John Wall have agreed to separate, see other people, go on a break, or whatever relationship analogy you want to make, it won’t take long for the Eric Gordon chatter to begin. Gordon is the last remaining player from the Rockets dominant 2017-18 squad that led the league in wins and was a Chris Paul hamstring from stopping one of the league’s great dynasties dead in its tracks. 

Gordan, who will turn 33 on Christmas day this year, doesn’t appear to be in the Rockets’ future plans. They’ve already put Wall on ice to give their young players the time and space to develop and Gordan looks likely to be the next veteran to be forced to take a backseat. 

Much like Wall, Gordon’s current employment by the Rockets has a lot to do with his contract. With two years and $37.7 million of guaranteed money left on his deal, he’s no one’s definition of a bargain. However, his deal is far from unmovable, and with a good showing in 2021-22, he could have real trade value. Gordon might be a distressed asset, but he showed signs of life last season and is one small adjustment away from turning it around. 

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Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon’s Renaissance is halfway complete

Eric Gordon experienced a serious bounceback in 2020-21. After having a career-worst season in 2019-20, Gordon came back with a vengeance. He posted the highest 2-point field goal percentage of his career, he posted his best free-throw attempt rate since 2012-13, and he posted his best assist rate since 2014-15. 

The 2020-21 season was a Back to the Future season for Gordon. He started attacking the rim with the frequency and success he showed in his early-20s. By and large, Gordon looked to have come back from his disastrous 2019-20 season when he set career lows nearly across the board. Unfortunately, the only carryover was that he still couldn’t hit his threes.  

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Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon’s 3-Point Decline

In his first three seasons in Houston (2016-17 to 2018-19) he shot 36.4-percent on 3-pointers on 8.8 attempts a game. Since then (2019-20 to 2020-21), he has shot 32.2-percent on 8.1 attempts per game. 

Over his first three seasons, Gordon was a league-average 3-point shooter at tremendous volume. That makes for an incredibly valuable player, but it does present a problem. What happens if the stroke disappears but the shot selection doesn’t?

That’s what has happened to Gordon over the past two seasons when he went from an average 3-point shooter to well a below-average one but continued to chuck with abandon. To put real NBA faces to Gordon’s shooting woes, he essentially went from being Fred VanVleet from behind the arc to being Anthony Edwards. Volume 3-point shooting is a blessing, but when you stop converting, it becomes a curse. 

Every season Gordon has been in Houston his percentage of shots from 3-point range has increased. Oddly, as he has taken more threes he has seen his share of threes from the corners decline. 

Houston Rockets, Eric Gordon
Sacramento Kings v Houston Rockets / Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Houston Rockets: Eric Gordon needs to head to the corners

Corner threes are the juiciest of shoots. The league converts them at a 39.5-percent clip compared to 35.9-percent on all other 3-pointers. At 1.2 points per shot, the only shot that beats it in value are shots within three feet of the rim. 

Gordon, for his career, has hit 38.5-percent of his corner threes. While that number isn’t impressive comparatively, if he only took corner threes he’d be a well above average 3-point shooter. When one looks a little closer at Gordon’s corner three history, an interesting trend emerges, there is no trend. Some years he’s been great, and some years he’s been horrible. 

Regardless of his inconsistency from the corners, the Rockets need to press Gordon to shoot more from them. He doesn’t fit their timeline, he’s still a useful player to a contender, and the only way anyone is taking on his contract is if his 3-point stroke comes back. If he keeps the gains he made at the rim and getting to the line and then adds just an average 3-point shot, he’d instantly become one of the most sought-after trade targets. 

Let’s say Gordon takes eight threes a game, attempts corner threes at league average rate (22.2%), and converts them at his career rate of 38.5-percent. If he shoots 33-percent on all other threes, he’d be a 34.2-percent 3-point shooter, a full 2-percent increase over the past two seasons. 

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The solution for Eric Gordon is simple, he has to hunt shots from the corner. For the Rockets to fix Eric Gordon’s 3-point shot, it’s easy as one, two, corner-three.