Aaron Gordon Officially Announces He Will Enter 2014 NBA Draft

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2014

Mar 23, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Aaron Gordon (right) pulls down a rebound against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard/forward Drew Barham (43) and guard David Stockton in the first half of a men's college basketball game during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at Viejas Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, Arizona forward Aaron Gordon announced Tuesday that he will forgo his final three seasons of eligibility and enter the 2014 NBA draft.   

The Daily Wildcat passed along the news, also sharing that teammate Nick Johnson is declaring as well:

Gordon, who averaged 12.4 points and 8.0 rebounds in his only season under Sean Miller, is widely considered a lock to be a top-10 pick. His decision to enter the draft has been seen as a foregone conclusion since Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports indicated early Monday he was planning to make an announcement this week.   

Gordon making his intentions known also helps clarify the top of draft boards. Jabari Parker is one of the only likely top-10 selections whose decision is still unknown. He's expected to be a top-three pick. Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Noah Vonleh and others have already declared.

The NBA's cutoff date for early entrants is April 27. Players who do not sign representation are eligible to withdraw anytime before June 16—10 days before the draft. 

At any rate, Gordon is at no risk to drop out. A 6'9" athletic power forward with a developing offensive game, I've graded only Julius Randle higher among 4s and have Gordon as the sixth-best player in the 2014 class. ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) has a similar evaluation.

Assuming Parker enters the draft, Gordon likely has a ceiling of the No. 4 pick. Wiggins, Embiid and Parker are a clear category over the likes of Dante Exum, Gordon, Randle and Vonley. The latter foursome each hold All-Star potential but are not as likely to be transformational pieces. They also carry semi-significant risks in one way or another.

For Gordon, it largely comes down to his offensive development and position. He's slight for his size at 225 pounds, so a coaching staff may be tempted to develop him as a power forward—a mistake considering his skill set but nonetheless a potential pitfall that may harm his long-term trajectory. Gordon is an improving shooter and stretched out to the college three-point line with increasing ease during the NCAA tournament.

He's still a net negative when pushed away from the basket. According to Synergy Sports (subscription required), Gordon knocked down just 29.3 percent of his jump shots as a freshman. Tracking data showed him to be especially poor on jumpers inside the three-point arc, making just 9 of 40 attempts. He was about average (35.6 percent) from three

Although Blake Griffin is most often the comparison thrown around, Griffin was far more advanced offensively coming out of Oklahoma. Despite his athleticism, Gordon has not developed into an elite offensive rebounder yet. Early in his career, expect Gordon to rely heavily on transition buckets, baseline cuts and pick-and-roll crashes, all areas where he showed promise under Miller. 

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 27:  Josh Davis #22 of the San Diego State Aztecs drives on Aaron Gordon #11 of the Arizona Wildcats in the first half during the regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Honda Center on March 27, 2014 in
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Where Gordon separates himself, though, is on defense. He may be the most advanced defender among potential lottery picks. He executes team-defense concepts extraordinarily for someone not yet 19, uses his body well in the post and is agile enough to hop out on perimeter defenders when guards need help. Arizona had the most efficient defense in the country, per Ken Pomeroy

“I can say that I don't think anyone that I've coached have been successful as a freshman doing that," Miller told reporters in February of Gordon's versatility.

Adding strength will be a key component in deciding whether Gordon can continue trending upward as a defender. He would initially fit well with teams that hedge hard on pick-and-rolls because his agility allows him to recover much quicker than a typical big. 

Given the landscape of collegiate sports, it's hard to blame Gordon for entering the draft early. He would probably benefit developmentally from another year at Arizona, where he could have morphed into the offensive focal point with teammate Nick Johnson also entering the draft.

But even if Gordon fails to show scouts improvement in the pre-draft process, his stock isn't going out of the lottery. Teams will fall too much in love with his long-term potential.

As for potential fits, we'll have to see how the lottery shakes out. He'd be an interesting piece next to Nikola Vucevic in Orlando or DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento, though, if we're going to speculate in the moment. 

For now, however, the overarching storyline might be to wonder how Miller is going to reload. One of the most experienced teams in the nation last season, Arizona stands to lose Gordon, Johnson and possibly even Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.


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