Sixers Urged to Reunite James Harden with $75 Million Wing in Proposed Trade

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers

Getty Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets.

Over the summer, an interesting trend emerged for the Philadelphia 76ers. It started first with the addition of Danuel House, Jr., a nice bench-unit scorer who coincidentally spent time with James Harden and Sixers GM Daryl Morey when the trio was in the Houston Rockets organization.

A few more eyebrows were piqued when the Sixers added PJ Tucker, though he fit the bill as an enforcer-type playoff player the Sixers desperately needed. Sure, it was also a coincidence that Tucker too was a former Rocket. But when Montrezl Harrell (yet another Morey-era Rocket) signed as a free agent at the tail end of the summer, it was now open season for the Philadelphia Rockets.

But wait, it gets even better. According to Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley, the Sixers could up the ante by adding Eric Gordon, another Rockets player who, you guessed it, played with James Harden in Houston. Aside from the obvious connection, Buckley argued the move made plenty of basketball sense for Philadelphia.

“His skill set can really help out a contender. He makes open threes, creates a bit of offense and isn’t a traffic cone on defense. Oh, he also formerly teamed with James Harden—and P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr.—in Houston, in case Sixers president Daryl Morey needed more motivation to go get Gordon.”

Sixers’ Made Calls for Gordon on Draft Night

This isn’t the first time the Sixers have been linked to Gordon. On draft night, when the Sixers pulled off a trade for Memphis Grizzlies wing De’Anthony Melton, Philadelphia was also in talks to land Gordon.

“Eric Gordon, the subject of repeated interest around the league,” wrote Kelly Iko of The Athletic back in July, “was close to being traded on draft night, with the Philadelphia 76ers presumed to be the landing spot before talks ultimately fell apart, The Athletic was told.”

With Melton in the mix, the Sixers no longer had a need to add Gordon. But what about now, roughly a quarter of a way through the season? Is Gordon what this team is missing?

Frankly, it’s difficult to pin-point precisely what Philadelphia needs. The team currently has the third-best defense in the league after leading the entire league in the month of November. Strangely, though, that defense boost came without James Harden, and, for several weeks now, Tyrese Maxey. Philadelphia’s two starting guards aren’t the best defenders in the world, as suggested by the 114.1 points per 100 possessions they give up when on the floor together.

Here’s the snag: while the defense looked excellent in November, the offense plummeted to league-average. Back in October, Philadelphia sported a top-seven offense, thanks to strong play from Maxey and Harden. Thus, what Philadelphia needs is a player that raises Philadelphia’s offense without sacrificing too much on the other end.

Gordon isn’t quite that player. On offense, his true shooting percentage is 58.7, well below the league-average of 63.4 percent. His three-point making is down as well: he’s connecting on just 37 percent of deep balls. Defensively, his steals rate is up from last year’s dismal figure, but is still bottom-25 percent among wings. It’s not that Gordon is a bad player, by any stretch, but it’s unclear how much he would add to Philadelphia’s rotation right now.

Checking in on the Philadelphia Rockets

Just for fun, why don’t we look at how exactly the “Philadelphia Rockets” are doing so far this season. In six possessions that Harden, House, Tucker, and Harrell have shared the floor, they’re on pace for an other-worldly 166 points per 100 possessions.

The only problem? None of those players play exceptional defense. Which is why the team is also on pace to give up 200 points per 100 possessions, a figure so horrible it’s worth wondering how in the world those four ended up on the court at the same time.

Thankfully, it’s only been six possessions. But can one imagine sliding Gordon into Melton’s slot? Perhaps the offense ticks up to 180 points per 100 possessions, but the defense would almost surely pass the tricentennial mark.

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