Drafted by: Orlando Magic, No. 4 overall
Height/Weight: 6'9", 220 lbs
Age: 18 years old
Projected NBA Position: Power Forward/Combo Forward
Pro Comparison: Shawn Marion
Twitter Handle: @IamAaronGordon
Aaron Gordon wasn't dominant during his freshman campaign at Arizona, but he exhibited enough versatility and tremendous athleticism to maintain a lottery-caliber draft stock.
A true team-first player, he rebounded the heck out of the ball and moved well within Sean Miller's offense while supplying impeccable defense.
He doesn't create or make a ton of shots at this stage in his development, so he sits behind the top tier of fabulous freshmen. However, Gordon remains a top-10-caliber prospect because of the myriad ways he can impact a game.
If he can polish his offensive repertoire, he will be a valuable two-way player, perhaps even a star.
|Statistics at Arizona|
Fortunately, he's spring-loaded with a 39-inch vertical and lateral quickness that most guards envy (his 10.81 lane-agility time is better than what Marcus Smart, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul registered). To top it off, he's got a 220-pound frame that looks like it could put on more muscle.
Gordon not only leaps high in the air, he gets off the ground extremely quickly, which helps for rebounding, second efforts and amazing plays in transition. His ability to shift side to side also helps him stay in front of dribble-drivers and steer them away from the hoop.
His agility and explosiveness is enhanced by a motor that keeps churning 100 percent throughout every game, so he's going to overwhelm some opponents in the NBA.
This goes way beyond "he can play offense and defense."
Gordon's versatility extends to every facet of the game, as he manages to contribute in each phase and stay engaged whether he's on or off the ball.
He snared 10.2 rebounds per 40 minutes in 2013-14, and those opportunities on the glass allowed him to showcase his leaping ability and knack for finishing above the rim. Gordon also gets a huge chunk of his production in transition, where he can elevate as a receiver or go coast to coast if room allows.
By the looks of this workout, his mid-range and perimeter shooting have improved:
While his shot-creation skills and ball-handling aren't advanced, he's a decent facilitator for someone who's 6'9". One NBA scout told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports that Gordon is a "tremendous passer for a guy his size" and a "unique ball-handler."
When the ball isn't in his hands, he's adept at anticipating where (and when) to cut. He's got great perception of timing and spacing in the half-court offense.
As we touched on before, his versatility extends to the defensive end, where he deserves a whole new section.
With apologies to Marcus Smart, Andrew Wiggins and others, Aaron Gordon will probably be the best defender to emerge from the 2014 draft class.
His blend of explosive quickness and textbook fundamentals allows him to keep even the best attackers in front of him. In addition, he holds his own against interior scorers with his strength and vertical bounce.
Here he explains his low squat, tracing the ball and "alligator step" to stop perimeter slashers:
And here's some proof of his low-post stoppage:
Gordon is also a superb helper when he's away from the ball, as he's constantly aware of where the ball is. When his teammates get beat, he's almost always in perfect position to step up and contest the oncoming attacker without fouling. He averaged just 2.4 fouls per game, despite guarding the adversary's best scorer most of the time.
Gordon will be able to guard everyone from point guards to power forwards in the NBA. In that regard, he'll be part of an ultra-exclusive club of versatile defenders.
We've already noted that he's a smart player who puts forth maximum effort on the floor, but it's worth expounding briefly on how team-oriented and intelligent he is.
NBA personnel view him as a terrific teammate and a winner, as evidenced by one scout's comment to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports: "(He) plays to win. Played for Arizona, not for Gordon."
That simple yet profound quote illustrates Gordon's approach when he's on the floor. He might not be a superstar scorer in the NBA, but he's going to be one of the absolute best role players in the league.
What role will Gordon play on offense? That's the question many executives are asking as they assess the youngster's value as a prospect.
He didn't display a polished offensive arsenal on the perimeter or in the post. In other words, he couldn't break down opponents off the dribble from the wing, nor could he operate with advanced pivots and short hooks off the glass in the post.
His recent workouts have shown an improvement and expansion in these areas, but there are still concerns that he won't be able to consistently post up or score from the outside.
The other thing to keep an eye on is his free-throw shooting. Gordon shot a miserable 42.2 percent from the charity stripe at Arizona, and his shots often looked rigid and disjointed.
As he mentioned in the above interview, he's streamlined his free-throw shot to make it the same as his outside jumpers, but we'll believe it when he can execute in games.
If you're looking for a rookie who will put up big numbers and thrive in he thick of the Rookie of the Year race, look elsewhere. Gordon may improve this summer, but he won't be ready to light up the scoreboard.
That said, his team will be able to stick him in the rotation knowing he'll make all the right plays within the flow of the offense. And his defense and athleticism will give his team a dangerous asset in the open floor.
Without getting carried away and making superstar projections, it's important to get an idea of what type of role Gordon could have.
He could be a second or third offensive option without even handling the ball much, as he'll move and operate with his teammates seamlessly. Meanwhile, his athleticism on the boards and in the open floor will afford him every extra offensive opportunity possible. And on the other end, he'll be a cream-of-the-crop defender capable of checking multiple positions.
That sounds a whole lot like The Matrix, Shawn Marion, who had an unorthodox offensive game like Gordon. Marion posted 19-21 points per game and nine to 11 rebounds in his prime. Those numbers might be on the upper end of Gordon's potential, but it shows how productive a "hustle guy" can be.
Don't be surprised if he scores 15-18 points and dishes two to three assists while earning All-Defensive team honors.