John Raoux, AP Photo
On Thursday, the Orlando Magic selected Aaron Gordon with the No. 4 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft to the surprise of many. The general consensus was that the team, in need of a point guard, would select Dante Exum (that need would eventually be filled with the draft day trade of Elfrid Payton).
But with Gordon’s extraordinary athleticism combined with his ability to make plays and defend at an elite level, he was simply too great of a talent for the Magic to pass up. And for good reason. Gordon, the 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward from Arizona, has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect selected in the draft.
There have been questions raised about which position Gordon will play at the next level — is he a 3 or a 4? — but after going through countless hours of film, I don’t believe there is any doubt that Gordon will spend a majority of his minutes at the small forward position for the Magic next season.
I compiled clips from two of Gordon’s games against elite college opponents (Duke and UCLA) from this past season, so as to be able to give a detailed description of his all-around game.
While it has been talked about, the most under-appreciated part of Gordon’s game may still be his playmaking ability. He showcased a knack for being able to find teammates in good positions, particularly within the half-court. Here are two instances of Gordon making plays for teammates against Duke and UCLA:
These little passes and hand-offs are impressive, but it’s not all that he has in his passing arsenal. Gordon is not only able to find open shooters on the perimeter, but he’s also able to recognize when defenders are in the wrong position. Here, the defender wrongly helps one pass away, and Gordon quickly fires a pass to his open teammate. Oh, and he can throw perfect half-court lob passes for teammates to finish:
Not only does he make plays for his teammates, but he showed he was able to make plays for himself as well. He’s a good cutter, and knows the best place to be in on the floor. Here, he recognizes that the man guarding him has gone to double the post, so he cuts right to the basket and finishes with a dunk:
Arizona didn’t run too much pick-and-roll for Gordon during the season, but he did show an adept skill in being able to knock down a pull-up jumper out of it. And as seen here in the ability to attack his defender and finish strongly:
Gordon is an excellent rebounder, particularly evident in his offensive rebounding numbers (3.4 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes). However, he did at times show a tendency to not box his man out and rather just hunt down the rebound:
He got away with this in college due to his superior athleticism and size at his position, but he’s going to have to present a better and more frequent effort to box out at the NBA level.
Gordon also averaged 6.8 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, but rebounding is just a small part of his incredible defensive ability. Coming into the league, he’s already a lockdown defender who will likely be immediately ready to take on the opposition’s toughest perimeter assignments.
He is always down in a wide stance, and he has fantastic quickness to recover even if he does get beaten off the dribble.
In the game against UCLA, Gordon spent most of the time guarding now-pro Kyle Anderson, and displayed some incredible individual defensive plays against him:
Not only this, but he was fantastic at defending the pick-and-roll. Arizona would defend this play by having its big men come out to hedge-and-recover, with whoever was guarding the ballhandler either going under or fighting over the screen. Gordon generally fought over all screens, and showed great footwork to be able to keep his man in front of him during these situations. This was helped by the aggression of Arizona’s big-men, but don’t discount Gordon’s effort in these plays. The following clips display two instances of this against Duke and uCLA each:
Lockdown defenders always have a place in the NBA, even if they have no offensive skills whatsoever to go with it. The fact that Gordon is an incredible defender and already has some offensive capabilities as well, show that he possesses all the tools to be an impactful player for the Magic immediately.
Even if he isn’t, that’s okay — having Tobias Harris and a few other developing players on the roster means Jacque Vaughn will be able to spread out Gordon’s minutes if he initially struggles in the NBA.
Gordon still has numerous weaknesses in his game (namely his shooting), and the Magic coaching staff undoubtedly know this and will hopefully continue to work with him as he develops his offensive skills. For now, there’s no pressure — the rebuild has been a long process, there’s no need to start rushing it now.