Rockets Confident in Bench Production After Eric Gordon Injury

Michael Shapiro

Eric Gordon's ankle injury is certainly a setback as the Rockets eye the Larry O'Brien Trophy, though Mike D'Antoni and Co. aren't exactly lacking bodies ahead of the NBA restart in Orlando. 

Houston entered February with thinning depth, in danger of repeating the same rotational woes that struck the team in the 2018 and 2019 postseasons. Isaiah Hartenstein played significant minutes in December and January. Gordon and Clint Capela both missed considerable time throughout the season. Daryl Morey's roster tinkering was forced to continue six months after his blockbuster trade for Russell Westbrook. 

The Rockets rotation entering the playoffs now looks relatively stacked compared to early in 2020, even despite Gordon's upcoming absence. Danuel House will return to the starting lineup after logging 47 starts this season. Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore will likely fill Gordon's minutes, and while neither player is quite as good as the Indiana product, their combined skill set can perhaps come close to approximating Gordon's value. 

McLemore has emerged as one of the league's top shooters this season, ranking No. 3 in the NBA in catch-and-shoot threes. Rivers is an effective on-ball defender, albeit a slight one. James Harden will be counted on for additional defensive help in the paint. Gordon's loss doesn't create a crisis for Houston. 

"We’re going to miss [Gordon], for sure, but it gives somebody else an opportunity," Rockets forward P.J. Tucker said on Wednesday. "We’ve got a bunch of guys we can sub in, and we expect them to do some things. Man down, man up.”

D'Antoni will frankly have to make some difficult rotation choices in Orlando, a luxury compared to earlier this season. He'll has a comfortable eight-man rotation even without Gordon, adding Jeff Green to Rivers, McLemore and Houston's starting lineup. D'Antoni could also give minutes to DeMarre Carroll in the seeding games, though Carroll is unlikely to see significant playing time in the postseason. D'Antoni said the Rockets should be able to weather the storm without Gordon in the lineup.

"It's a little bit like the year when Luc [Mbah a Moute] goes down with the shoulder, but we still had enough to hold the fort, and we have enough this year," D'Antoni said on Wednesday. "We want [Gordon] back, and as soon as soon as he gets back we'll be whole, and that's what this team is made for, but in the meantime we do have enough to get it done."

The Rockets will resume the 2019-20 season on Friday in a matchup against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. CT. 

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