Magic Rookie Aaron Gordon Needs to Figure Out His Position
Leading up to the draft, many experts and analysts alike expected the Magic to use their top pick on players like Dante Exum, Marcus Smart or even Noah Vonleh.
At the time, they all appeared to be perfect matches, not only suiting Orlando’s positional needs in the starting lineup, but also fitting the stereotypical profile for what kind of players the team was looking for.
To much surprise and scorn, they chose to select Aaron Gordon, a 6’9″ combo forward from the University of Arizona. During his lone collegiate season, he showcased superhero-like athleticism, a tremendously high basketball IQ and loads of defensive prowess.
But was that alone enough to warrant his selection?
As seen above, most Magic fans felt it wasn’t, outraged and befuddled as to why management would pass up on other prospects that were considered to be better values.
However many experts like CBS Sports’ Matt Moore analyzed the selection of Gordon quite differently, believing that he was a prospect that holds little to no risk at all:
Magic: Aaron Gordon: A-: Can’t miss pick. Worst case, he’s a defensive lockdown. Best case, an athletic freak who can change the game.
— Matt Moore CBS (@MattMooreCBS) June 26, 2014
Whether or not Gordon was actually worth the gamble still remains to be seen, but regardless of how he fares, his defensive versatility should be a valuable asset for the Magic from day one.
Equipped with blinding footspeed, a nearly 7 foot wingspan and adept defensive intangibles, Gordon has the ability to guard any position on the floor and do a rather effective job.
Going up against elite scorers in college like Jabari Parker was really his biggest strength, as he excelled at forcing them into tough shots while allowing little to no breathing room once they were inside the paint – a recipe for an inefficient shot chart.
Even before the start of training camp, the Magic rookie raved about how much he’s looking forward to defending at the NBA level.
“I think I’ll be able to do a lot of things. But what I’m most looking forward to is defending. I want to be able to defend the greatest players in the world and see how I stack up. So every single night I’m gonna give it my all because I don’t want to be the one on SportsCenter getting blasted for 30 points, you know?”
Gordon’s willingness to become one of the NBA’s best defensive forces is clear, but one area of his game that still holds many questions is what position he’s best suited to play.
In college it appeared that he was destined for the power forward position, since he’s a natural at catching lobs inside and can use his athleticism to muscle through larger defenders.
However during the Orlando Summer League, he often struggled to score efficiently at the 4 spot, getting lost at times offensively and not possessing a set of go-to moves to use in the post.
Following a tough loss to the Grizzlies in which he was predominately placed at the 4, Gordon told reporters: “At this point I feel more comfortable playing the 3.”
The issue is he can be just as much of an offensive liability on the wing, as his jumpshot is a total work in progress, which causes opposing defenses to remain parked inside the perimeter.
Regardless of where the coaching staff decides to place Gordon at, it’s vital he employs some kind of offensive repertoire that branches out beyond lobs inside and breakaway dunks.
Learning from teammate Channing Frye could prove to be instrumental in his development, as he’d learn from one of the league’s best stretch fours on how to evolve into more of an offensive threat.
“I’m going to keep trusting my skill, and eventually it will all come together,” said Gordon, after being asked about his scoring issues following a game in the Summer League.
Hopefully over time Gordon can find a niche offensively. If he’s successful at doing so, he can finally prove to Magic fans why he was truly worthy of the fourth selection in the draft.