The Houston Rockets are built around their superstar backcourt, but an injury to the unheralded Eric Gordon may cripple them for the rest of the season.
While the Rockets haven’t lost any key contributors to opt-outs, food delivery, or really good wings they did catch a bad break this week. Eric Gordon landed awkwardly on a Celtics foot and suffered a sprained ankle. As of right now he’s looking at it least two weeks out, and ankle injuries can be difficult to really project returns from.
This hasn’t been Gordon’s best season as he’s barely hitting 30% from three point range. He’s also been dealing with injuries throughout the season and sporadic playing time may have contributed to his uneven shooting. It’s tough to get in a groove when your in and out of the line-up.
The Rockets pickup of Robert Covington looms even larger now, without him and Gordon they would be hurting both ways on the perimeter. Danuel House and Covington are both shooting about a 36% clip from deep at 5 and 8 attempts per game. That along with James Harden and P.J. Tucker (37% on 4 threes a game) will provide enough spacing for Russell Westbrook to do his thing. As it is the loss of Gordon is going to possibly hurt the team more on the defensive end than offensively.
Westbrook and Harden are both substandard perimeter defenders. They can make some steals by taking chances, but this occasionally leads to blown assignments. Neither is a particularly strong help or on-call defender. Covington makes up for some of that by being a great help defender, and P.J. Tucker is the backbone to the teams defense. Gordon’s strength and ability to stay with a wide variety of players is going to be missed.
While injuries and age have taken some of Gordon’s athleticism he still was an obstacle for opposing guards and wings. Without him the Rockets will need to look for more help defense, and may struggle against teams with smaller guards who can penetrate and create. Houston’s small ball line-ups double edge may lead to more self inflicted damage than before.
The other spot where they will miss Gordon if he’s out for an extended period will be in crunch time of big games. Gordon has come through for the Rockets in the past, and has more playoff experience than some of his replacements. Philadelphia is still trying to wash away the dump Covington took on their playoff run two years ago where his shooting percentages dropped by 50 and 100 points and he looked overwhelmed.
Eric Gordon may not be the superstar he looked like he was going to be earlier in his career but he’s an above average player who helps the Rockets in many ways. Hopefully he won’t have to miss too much time, but if he does Houston may have more trouble in their first round matchup than you’d expect.