Eric Gordon looks like he has finally found a home. The gifted shooting guard endured eight tumultuous NBA seasons before opting to spending his ninth with the Houston Rockets. Gordon–like Houston–is the league’s surprise of the year so far, making him a worthy candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Gordon, who is still just 27 years old, has battled injuries and failed expectations as an NBA player. After playing in 78 of the Clippers’ 82 games during his rookie season in 2008-09, he has yet to appear in more than 64 games. In his final season with the New Orleans Pelicans, Gordon managed just 45 appearances. During the 2011-12 campaign, he played just nine games.
Mike D’Antoni has seemingly rejuvenated the guard’s once-promising career. Gordon has played in all 22 of the Rockets’ games thus far, and after opening the season as the starting shooting guard, D’Antoni has opted to bring him off the bench. The decision has paid major dividends, as Gordon is on pace to have the best season of his career. And despite playing the majority of the season on the road, the Rockets are 15-7 and currently in fourth place in a difficult Western Conference.
By managing Gordon’s minutes, D’Antoni has found a way to keep the guard effective and healthy. He is averaging 29.3 minutes in four December contests (4-0), and the guard has played just 24 minutes in two of those games. In Gordon’s last six games, he has averaged 22.7 PPG and converted 53.6 percent of his three-pointers.
The Rockets have gone 11-3 in games where Gordon has come off the bench, as well. Following Gordon’s effort in a 134-95 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, D’Antoni gushed about his performance. ““Good as you can make it,” Mike D’Antoni said of Gordon’s play. “I mean, talk about a good sixth man. Oh my gosh, he’s really good.
“He embraces it, most definitely,” said teammate Ryan Anderson. “He’s a professional guy, he wants to win, and I think, most importantly, he wants to play for a team where he can be used in the right way, and the thing is, he found that role.”
Gordon has also found a coach to make the most of his abilities. By making James Harden the starting point guard, defenses have sagged away from the shot-makers in an attempt to stifle Harden’s drives to the rim. This strategy has led to the most made three-point field goals per game at 14, which is two clear of the Golden State Warriors. The Rockets could be looking at multiple NBA award winners if their success continues.