The 2014 NBA draft continues to inch closer—the annual rite of passage will take place on June 26. The Los Angeles Lakers will be picking at No. 7 in the first round, which narrows down the choices to some extent.
Of course they would.
That’s exactly what Aaron Gordon brings to the table—plus some added versatility. Maybe the comparison has been beaten to death, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Gordon, who played just a year at the University of Arizona, has an insane motor, plays above the rim and dunks with the same ferocity that resulted in Kia car ads and a monster throw-down reputation for Griffin.
Last Friday, BDA Sports, an elite sports management group, held workouts in Santa Monica for a number of its prized draft prospects. Gordon was among those participating in 45-minute drills. And among those watching were Lakers owner-executive Jim Buss, general manager Mitch Kupchak, assistant manager Glenn Carraro, director of scouting Jesse Buss, assistant director of scouting Ryan West and scouts Jordan Wilkes and Chaz Osborne.
According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, Gordon had this to say about the prospect of being drafted by the Lakers: “I love L.A. I have family in L.A.”
Yeah, you’d better love it, buddy. The Purple and Gold may be signing you to a long-term contract.
Pros of drafting Gordon
You’ll hear the word versatility used a lot to describe Gordon—this isn’t a one-trick dunk machine. In the NBA, he’ll likely be used as a combo forward, depending on matchups.
The 18-year-old has excellent passing skills and has a great sense of floor spacing and awareness, knowing when to flash out to the wing position to exploit a one-on-one mismatch or dive to the post, ready to catch the ball down low in prime position or rising up to snag a lob for a rim-rattling finish.
At the recent Chicago 2014 NBA Draft Combine, Gordon measured out at 6’8.75” with a 6’11.75” wingspan. As for his leaping ability, the kid blew everyone away with a 39” vertical.
According to Ricky O’Donnell for SB Nation, Gordon actually downplayed his gravity-defying liftoff, saying, "I can jump higher than I just did, but it doesn't matter to me. I wanted at least 40. I can get 40. I've gotten 42 before."
Gordon also had the best time of anyone at the combine in the shuttle run at 2.76 seconds. The Griffin comparisons have often been made, but there’s another one people are evoking as well—Shawn Marion, the undersized hybrid forward with the ability to do a lot of different things right, including those sky-high dunks.
Aerial theatrics aside, it’s the defensive end where Gordon truly shines—he can guard three or four positions, has great footwork and lateral mobility and is able to wall off opponents without picking up the foul. The Wildcats are losing arguably the best defensive stopper in college basketball—their loss could be the Lakers' gain.
The cons of drafting Gordon
The most obvious negative that people will bring up is Gordon’s suspect jump shot. That can be worked on, of course.
In fact, during a Chicago combine draft interview, per Draft Express, Gordon discussed merging different shots into one in order to get a more consistent stroke: “Now what I’ve done is connected my three and my pull-up and my 17-footer, and now my free throw—it’s all one shot, it’s all connected and it feels great.”
Of course, getting his jumper off against top NBA defenders will take more than a little practice. That’s okay—he can dish it off to Kobe Bryant and get some up-close-and-personal lessons.
Gordon’s a little light at 220 pounds for the power forward position and could find himself getting knocked out of position by some of the league’s bulkier bigs. Then again, he’ll be a size upgrade from Wesley Johnson, who at 6’7” and 205 pounds was often asked by Mike D’Antoni to play the 4 this past season.
Fortunately, D'Antoni is now out of the picture.
Finally, Gordon’s free-throw completion of 42 percent during his one year at Arizona is an obvious Achilles' heel. He’s working to improve his shooting form, but let’s face it—that’s pitiful.
At the No. 7 slot, the Lakers aren’t going to get a perfect player. There are those who will argue vociferously for other candidates—pointing toward Noah Vonleh as the paint warrior the Lakers need, or Julius Randle with his offensive arsenal or Marcus Smart with size and strength at the point guard position.
All three are fine possibilities. But Gordon could bring a combination of all-out frontcourt intensity, athleticism and versatility that have been all too lacking in recent years for the Lakers.
Maybe it’s time for the second coming of Lob City in Los Angeles. With a Matrix twist.