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If Rockets are going to be so rigid with Gordon, perhaps it’s time to move on

There’s a ton of reported interest in Eric Gordon — including from the Sixers — but the Rockets refuse to move him for ... reasons.

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San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Eric Gordon is a good basketball player — one that assuredly could help a potential contender like the Sixers.

That’s why we’ve seen several reports linking the former Sixth Man of the Year to the team. Even after the Sixers acquired De’Anthony Melton on draft night, Keith Pompey of The Inquirer reported they were still looking to swing a deal for Gordon.

But Houston’s asking price for a 33-year-old with a large contract that in no way fits its timeline seems immoderate.

Kelly Iko of The Athletic had the latest on the Rockets’ strategy going forward after a great draft haul (Jabari Smith, Tari Eason, TyTy Washington) which adds to the intriguing young players they already have:

“In addition to identifying the young players the Rockets wanted to bring on board, there were a few others already on the roster to sort out. One was Eric Gordon, a player not new to interest from contending teams. There has always been interest in the former Sixth Man of the Year, with various playoff teams monitoring his situation in Houston. The final year of Gordon’s extension, the 2023-24 season, is non-guaranteed.

Teams had made their intentions to acquire him known more fervently over the past two weeks and continued as the draft was ongoing — with teams offering various proposals that included live picks. The Rockets were aware of interest from Philadelphia, the connections obvious with Morey and James Harden, just as they were from Phoenix with Chris Paul’s presence. They listened to the 76ers’ offer, but just as has been the case this time last year and other trade deadlines, his internal value was deemed greater than what was offered. This sentiment has been repeated ad nauseam, but Houston would be open to a deal if the return was deemed appropriate. The Rockets simply aren’t desperate to move Gordon, however.”

As mentioned, Gordon is 33, and he’ll turn 34 on Christmas Day. Most of the players on the Rockets’ roster that are above the age of 25 were acquired as salary dumps — including in the recent Christian Wood deal. Houston finished 20-62 last season and 17-55 the year before. Players like Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. — in addition to the 2022 draft class — are reasons for hope, but make no mistake, these Rockets are far off from any sort of contention.

So why hang on to Gordon?

It appears Houston is using the “internal value” thing as its excuse to ask for an exorbitant return. Masai Ujiri and the Raptors had a similar company line when it came to hanging on to franchise icon Kyle Lowry at the 2021 deadline. Toronto wound up missing the playoffs that season and losing Lowry in a sign-and-trade with the Heat where they got far less value than if they’d moved him at the deadline.

And, respectfully, it feels like Lowry, a player that spent nearly a decade in Toronto, made six All-Star teams and helped capture the team’s first NBA title, meant a scoche more to his franchise.

Gordon could still provide value in helping the Rockets’ young players. He had a bit of a bounce-back season in 2021-22 from an efficiency standpoint and his veteran presence could help the team’s youth movement. But his contract is only guaranteed through this season and Houston is not likely to pay him $20.9 million next season. It would seem to make more sense to move Gordon on what’s basically an expiring deal to acquire players and assets that align better with their timeline.

That’s not even to say the Sixers should be the team Gordon ultimately gets traded to — and it seems fair to surmise that Tillman Fertitta is petty enough to not help Morey. With Melton already here, the Sixers backcourt is on the smallish side. Adding the 6-foot-3 Gordon doesn’t help that cause.

Outside of a deal involving Tobias Harris — which would also make the team smaller — it would require the Sixers to move an awful lot of salary to take on Gordon’s $19.6 million cap hit for 2022-23. That would also muddy the team’s reported pursuit of veteran P.J. Tucker. Of course, Harden choosing not to opt in (despite several reports that he will) could give the Sixers much more flexibility to pursue both players.

At this point, it’s hard to see how the hunt for Gordon is fruitful. He’s a good player that can lengthen the Sixers’ playoff rotation. He’s enjoyed his best success playing alongside Harden and is the kind of audacious shooter (8.8 three point attempts a game playing with The Beard) the Sixers sorely need.

But is it worth all this trouble?

If the Rockets are going to be so rigid, perhaps it’s best to look elsewhere.