Eric Gordon is having the second-best season of his now nine-year NBA career.
Gordon is averaging 17.7 points per game. He leads the NBA in three-point makes, having nailed more than Stephen Curry on fewer attempts. He’s got 12 games with 20 or more points, and his team is thriving, in part, because of his play.
There’s plenty of credit to go around for Houston’s startling 27-9 record, from James Harden’s MVP-caliber season to Mike D’Antoni’s revamped offensive system. The resurgence of Gordon still stands up as no small part of the team’s success.
Eric Gordon's healthy, and having a career rebirth in Houston
Eric Gordon is back! And he's leading the NBA in three-pointers.Posted by SB Nation on Thursday, January 5, 2017
It’s easy to forget Gordon was headed for stardom before injuries stalled his rise. There was a time when the young shooting guard from Indianapolis was supposed to have one of the brightest futures of any young basketball player on the planet.
Gordon was set to be really, really good coming out of college.
Gordon was better known in 2007 by his high school monicker, “EJ.” And EJ was a bona fide hooper.
A teenage Gordon averaged 29 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists, shooting 57 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from downtown in his senior season in high school. He was later named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year, and both McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-Stars.
Gordon entered his lone season at Indiana as the Rivals.com No. 2-ranked high school prospect behind Michael Beasley — a class that also featured future NBA All-Stars, like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and Derrick Rose. He averaged 20.9 points per game as a freshman, earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award — from both the conference and the media — and declared for the draft, where the Clippers drafted him No. 7 overall.
Gordon’s rookie year was full of promise. He averaged 16.6 points and shot 38.9 percent from three, showing the same flashes of offensive brilliance scouts saw in his time at Indiana. The potential was there.
And then came the injuries
Gordon played 78 games his rookie season, sitting out only four due to a bruised left shoulder. The following year, knick-knack injuries (strained groin, sprained big toe) kept Gordon out of 20 games.
But the injuries started to compound for the young scorer. He missed 26 games in his third season with a right wrist bone chip fracture that he re-injured the same season. He was still Los Angeles’ leading scorer at 24.1 points per game, the eighth-best mark in the NBA.
The following year, Gordon was dealt to New Orleans in the Chris Paul trade. He suffered a right knee injury initially scheduled for two-to-three weeks recovery that ended up costing Gordon 57 games. He had a setback on his knee injury while trying out for for the U.S. Olympic team, and missed the first 29 games of the 2012-13 season
EJ starts showing signs of being healthy... kinda
Gordon only missed four games through the first four months of the 2013-14 season. He was averaging 15.4 points and shooting 39.3 percent from downtown on an average of less than 13 shot attempts per game. It seemed EJ was getting back to his old self.
Then came the other knee.
Gordon exited a March game against the Hawks with what was later diagnosed as left knee tendinitis. Coach Monty Williams hoped his perimeter scorer would be ready for the next day’s game against Miami, but Gordon missed the remaining 14 games of the season.
In 2014-15 , it was a torn labrum in his shoulder that cost Gordon 21 games. He would return in January to help the Pelicans make a playoff push, and averaged 18.5 points in four games against the Golden State Warriors.
In 2015-16, Gordon missed 40 games after undergoing surgery on his right ring finger. He then re-injuring the same finger in March, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
The Pelicans finished the year 30-52, 12th in the West, and selected sharp-shooter Buddy Hield sixth in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The Gordon era in New Orleans had come to an end.
But then came Houston.
The Rockets hired offensive mastermind Mike D’Antonio and had one plan: Flank James Harden with as many shooters as possible to space the floor and give their point guard kick-out options on the drive.
Gordon was one of the best on the market. He and the Rockets agreed to terms on a four-year, $53 million contract — a risky deal given his well-documented injury history.
Now, he seems to be healthy and back to his old self.
Gordon’s 17.7 points are the best he’s averaged since 2011. We’re in January and he he’s yet to play less than 24 minutes, let alone miss a game. He’s cashing in on more three-pointers than anyone else in the NBA, and he looks like the same EJ who took the Big Ten by storm and was on an upward trajectory to stardom.
Gordon’s 28 years old now, enjoying a prime delayed by injury. And the Rockets are enjoying it right with him.