Photo: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle

Hoosiers in the NBA: Eric Gordon Season in Review

The 2017-18 NBA season has ended for all of the eight former Indiana Hoosiers that registered statistics in the league this year.  Today marks the eighth in a series of more in depth reviews of their respective seasons as we discuss former Hoosier one and done sensation Eric Gordon.

Everything about Eric Gordon’s brief tenure with Indiana, from his commitment on through to the end of his freshman season, was high profile.

Gordon first verbally committed to Illinois in November of 2005 before having a change of heart and signing on with Indiana in October of 2006.  In the intervening months, IU hired new head coach Kelvin Sampson, and he proceeded to recruit Gordon, much to the ire of Illini head coach Bruce Weber.  That whole turn of events led to one of the more memorable regular season basketball games in IU history when the Hoosiers visited Illinois in February of 2008.

Gordon’s freshman year at IU was fully as advertised.  The Indianapolis native averaged 20.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game and earned first team All-Big Ten honors.  As a team Indiana started the season 24-4 and were ranked in the top 10 — before the wheels came off in connection with the Kelvin Sampson recruiting scandal and accusations of rampant drug abuse by other members of the team.

It came as no surprise that Gordon entered the NBA draft after his freshmen season at IU.  The 6-foot-4 shooting guard was taken seventh overall by the Los Angeles Clippers.

GORDON’S 2017-18 NBA SEASON

It is hard to believe, but Eric Gordon just completed his 10th season in the NBA.  He entered the 2017-18 season as the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, and after a solid second season in Houston, he is a finalist to repeat.

On an individual level, it wasn’t clear what to expect for Gordon in the 2017-18 season.  With the arrival of Chris Paul, a drop-off in minutes and production would not have been surprising.  Instead, Gordon had his highest points per game scoring average since the 2011-12 season, and shot his highest percentage from the field since 2013-14.

Games/Games Started – 69/30
Points – 18.0
Rebounds – 2.5
Assists – 2.2
Blocks – .4
Steals – .6
FG% – .428
3FG% – .359
FT% – .809

 

Gordon went over 30 points five different times on the season.  In each of those games he hit at least five 3-pointers, as the former NBA 3-point contest champion furthered his reputation as an expert marksman from distance.

Gordon also excelled when he filled in for Chris Paul or James Harden in the starting lineup.  In those games he averaged 21.5 points on 37.3 percent 3-point shooting.  He was second in scoring off the bench (among those qualified for the Sixth Man award).

Always known best as a scorer, Gordon has also developed a reputation as a defender, quietly excelling “on the perimeter and in switches”, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Gordon has moved his way up to 55th on the NBA’s all-time 3-pointers made list.

THE 2018 NBA PLAYOFFS

Houston finished the season with the best record in the NBA and earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.  The Rockets took care of both Minnesota and Utah in five games to advance to the Western Conference Finals.  Gordon played a key role in games 4 and 5 of the Minnesota series, scoring 18 and 19 points respectively as Houston advanced.

Despite a relatively quiet series against Utah, Gordon had a big game in the always critical game 4.  With Houston leading 2 games to 1, he had 25 points on a highly efficient 8 for 13 from the field as the Rockets won the game and took control of the series.

In the Western Finals, Gordon had several big moments, including critical contributions at crunch time in multiple games.  Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni had this to say after game 5:

“Eric Gordon, down the stretch, was huge,” Rockets’ head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He came up with a steal. He came up with some shots, some foul shots.

“He was huge the last two games. He’s hit some big shots that put us over the hump.

As the video illustrates, he is still much more than a 3-point shooter, with an explosive ability to get to the rim that Hoosier fans remember well.  With Gordon making clutch plays, it looked like he might become the first Hoosier since Isiah Thomas to play in an NBA Finals.

Ultimately Gordon and the Rockets were not able to overcome the defending champion Warriors.  After Chris Paul was lost due to an injury, Gordon was inserted into the starting lineup.  He shot the ball well in game 6 but struggled with turnovers.  In game 7, Gordon and the entire Rockets team struggled from the field, and Golden State advanced to the NBA Finals.

After the deciding game 7, Gordon couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if Houston had the 9-time NBA All-Star Paul for the entire series.

“It sucks because you know you could win this series if we just had one more playmaker,” Gordon said

WHAT’S NEXT

Gordon is in the prime of his career, both as an athlete and financially.  Now at age 29, he signed 4 year $53 million deal in July of 2016.

Despite having the talent to start on most NBA teams, he has said recently that he just wants to win.  There may be no better place than Houston for that.  The question during this offseason will be whether the Rockets might look to move his salary in a trade to find a new formula to overtake Golden State.

There have been rumors of Houston adding LeBron James to go along with James Harden and Chris Paul in an effort to form another “super team”.  If Gordon somehow ends up going elsewhere, most IU fans probably wouldn’t mind seeing him paired up with Victor Oladipo on a Hoosier/Pacer “super team”, back home again….in Indiana.


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