The Strange Case of the Houston Rockets and Eric Gordon

A look into the very inconsistent Houston Rockets, as well as Eric Gordon's slow start to the season and a possible cause that may be behind his career low numbers.

The Houston Rockets have been a confusing puzzle all season long. They are currently below .500 and have been a team of streaks both good and bad. The Rockets have been too inconsistent in every facet of the game. The Rockets began the season playing terrible defense and to make matters worse, their offense was also unreliable making it almost impossible for Houston to win games. To no surprise, Houston began the season 1-5. Houston was 17th in defensive rating and 20th in points allowed in the month of October, and they were also 26th in points per game and 19th in offensive rating in the same month.

The month of November saw a drastic improvement for the Rockets as Houston raised their offensive rating to sixth in the league. At the same time, they played strong defense (at one point went on a streak where they held six out of the seven opponents they played under 100 points, including wins against Denver and Golden State). Recently, however, the Rockets defense has taken a nosedive once again as they gave up an average of 124 points per game during their four-game losing streak against the Pistons, Cavaliers, Wizards, and the Mavericks. Houston's defensive rating for the season plummeted to 28th.

A little over a month into the season, no other player on the Rockets roster has been a better epitome of Houston's erratic season as Eric Gordon. The 2017 NBA Three-Point Contest Champion and 2017 Sixth Man of the Year has had a brutal start to the season.

A Look at the Numbers

Eric Gordon has struggled tremendously in shooting the ball. In this table, Eric Gordon's career statistics are broken down by season. As illustrated in the chart, Gordon's field goal percentage is significantly down this season from the rest of his career. Gordon is shooting a career-low 35.4% from the field and an abysmal 28.9% from three, which is only second worst to his 2011-12 season in which he only played nine games. Gordon's effective field goal percentage is also at a career low at only 43.7%, which is about 8% lower than his career average. To cap off the lows, Eric Gordon is only averaging 14.8 points a game, which is the lowest he has ever averaged with Houston and the second lowest of his career. Eric Gordon's player impact estimate is only 5.8 which is good for 347th in the NBA. To put Gordon's struggles into perspective, Anthony Tolliver, Landry Shamet, and Markelle Fultz all have a higher PIE this season.

Why are Gordon's Statistics So Atrocious?

A simple answer to the mystery of Eric Gordon's struggles to begin the season is that he is just on an extended and extraordinary slump. Eric Gordon is a much better player, and the ball just will not go through the basket.

Another possible reason, however, could be all the trade rumors in which Gordon's name was involved in late in the offseason. Heading into training camp, it was clear that Jimmy Butler wanted out of Minnesota and that Houston was heavily interested in acquiring him. The reason that these trade rumors could be partly responsible for Gordon's struggles is that they were at their strongest as the season was beginning. Gordon was even asked directly during the season if the trade rumors were affecting him, so he was well aware that there was a possibility he could be sent somewhere else.

Though Gordon would never use the trade rumors as an excuse, having the talk of being moved and realizing that the team's front office may not see him as important to the team as he thought leaves an impact no matter how subtle it may be. Confidence is crucial for every athlete in order for them to have success and because Gordon was constantly exposed to those rumors, it is very possible that Gordon has been affected by them mentally.

Is There Hope For Eric Gordon?

Yes and here is why:

Last season, Eric Gordon shot 40.8% from the field and 30.2% from three in October, and 38.4% from the field and only 32.7% from three in November, which was also below his career averages. December of last season saw Gordon raise his field goal percentage to 46%, and his three-point percentage to 38.5%

Gordon's struggles to begin this season were worse than a year ago, but Gordon has had a similar turnaround in recent games. One thing Eric Gordon never stopped doing was shooting, and in his past five games, he has been shooting 44.4% from three, averaging almost five made threes a game. This improvement has been huge for the Rockets. Now Gordon just has to stay consistent and not have a drastic dropoff.

As for the Rockets, they need to stay healthy. The story of this team so far has been their inconsistency and a huge cause for the inconsistency has been injuries. When Houston is at full strength, they are still a tough team to defeat.

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