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Report: Eric Gordon likely to start for Rockets in 2022-23 season

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At 33 years old, veteran guard Eric Gordon is a clear outlier on the rebuilding Houston Rockets. But that doesn’t mean that he lacks value, particularly when it comes to making the game easier for his younger teammates and giving them a positive influence to learn from.

Unlike John Wall, who the Rockets didn’t want to give starting minutes to in the 2021-22 season due to his ball-dominant playing style, Gordon often makes a big impact through long-range floor spacing and versatile defense — i.e. without always taking touches away from Houston’s prized young backcourt of Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green.

To no surprise, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic, that has Gordon (under contract for at least one more year) in line for a starting role next season:

The Rockets want to be a better defensive team, and right now, all signs are pointing to veteran Eric Gordon reclaiming his spot in the starting lineup once he returns (Gordon started 46 of 57 games played this past season).

If you can pencil him in along with Green and Porter, that leaves two spots remaining — and we haven’t even factored in Jae’Sean Tate.

That could all change if the Rockets trade Gordon, of course. But many of the reasons they opted not to deal him (or Christian Wood) at the February 2022 trade deadline potentially still apply this offseason.

Gordon posted the highest true shooting percentage (61.4%) of his career last season, along with his second-best 3-point clip (41.2%).

In the big picture, the best statistic to sum up Gordon’s value could be this: The Rockets were 1-24 (.040) when he did not play in the 2021-22 season, and 19-38 (.333) when he did. If extrapolated over a full 82-game campaign, that’s the difference between going 27-55 or 3-79.

If we exclude Gordon’s 14 games during Houston’s 1-16 start (largely due to the ill-fated double big lineups of Wood and Daniel Theis), the Rockets went 18-25 (.419) when playing Gordon alongside proper floor spacing. Over a full season, that’s a win pace of nearly 35 games!

Last season, when available, Gordon typically started alongside Porter and Green in a three-guard backcourt, with Jae’Sean Tate and Christian Wood in the frontcourt. But with Houston likely to add a marquee power forward at No. 3 overall in the 2022 NBA draft, that player appears likely to become an immediate starter and squeeze someone out.

Some expected that player to be Gordon, given his age and the state of the rebuilding Rockets. But Tate at small forward could create another spacing conundrum, considering his career struggles from 3-point range (31.0%). So, if Wood and Gordon remain on the roster, it sounds for the time being as though Tate might become the odd man out.

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2021-22 Rockets roster review, offseason outlook: Eric Gordon