Aaron Gordon, Power Forward
Contract Status: 1 year/ $5.5 million
2016-17 stats: 80 Games, 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 45.4% FG, 28.8% 3PT, 71.9% FT
PER 36 stats: 80 games, 16.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 45.4% FG, 28.8% 3PT, 71.9% FT
Last season was a bit rocky for Aaron Gordon. The team’s trade for Serge Ibaka forced Gordon to be moved to small forward. Gordon was up for the challenge but never quite excelled the way coach Frank Vogel envisioned. Due to his superior athletic ability, the Magic believed Gordon could fill a similar role as Paul George in Indiana. Gordon was very successful on the defensive end of the floor. Every night he was tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best offensive threat. The Magic relied heavily on Gordon’s defense and he usually delivered. The offensive end was a different story.
While Gordon is versatile, his perimeter offense is not a strength yet. His confidence in shooting the three ball has improved as he shows little hesitation in taking open shots. However, the percentage of those shots that go in did not improve. Playing against small forwards, Gordon lost his advantage of athleticism. His ball handling isn’t solid enough yet to take small forwards off the dribble and at times put Gordon in a bad position. Once the playoffs were out of reach, the Magic traded away Serge Ibaka and Gordon was moved back to his natural position of power forward. Just like the prior season, Gordon showed that he could be most effective in the post area. The Magic found a rhythm at the end of the season that they hope to continue this year.
According to ESPN’s John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating, he ranks 40th amongst power forwards and tied for 151st league wide at 14.52. Other notable players in Gordon’s range include Avery Bradley (14.52), Robin Lopez (14.47), and Andre Iguodala (14.37).
Strengths of Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon’s core strength is his athleticism and explosiveness. These two attributes give Gordon an edge when matched up against power forwards. On the offensive end, Gordon is a handful for power forwards to keep up with. He often finds himself in position to receive passes as he cuts to the basket off of pick and rolls. When given the opportunity in space, Gordon has just enough ball handling skills to take opponents off the dribble. Because of his elite athleticism, Gordon can be moved all over the court defensively. He can cover positions 1-5 on any given night depending on the team’s match ups. Gordon prides himself on his defense and has the tools to be in the defensive player of the year conversation for years to come.
Weaknesses of Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon’s overall weakness is his offensive polish. While he does everything fairly well there is nothing that he does great individually. His lack of production can be traced back to Gordon not having a distinguished role with the Orlando Magic. Is he a power forward or a small forward? Should he play in the post or out on the perimeter? Lack of a clearly defined role has led Gordon to attempt to do everything for the team. It is nice to be versatile, but it would be better if Gordon had one thing he can rely on consistently.
His post game is something we see very rarely. When Gordon catches the ball in the post, he more than likely will face up on the defender and try to get around him with his dribble. His ball handling just isn’t crisp enough to rely on that, especially if a second defender comes over to trap. His shooting numbers have improved but not good enough to be considered a strength. Gordon’s confidence has grown enough to take the open shot, but it needs to start going in more. Having Gordon play the power forward spot under the same coach and scheme as the previous season will help him tremendously.
Areas of improvement
This season, Gordon’s main concern needs to be improving his shooting ability. Not necessarily shooting from behind the arch, but shooting in general. The ability to make open shots consistently is the Magic’s biggest issue and if Gordon is to see an increase in playing time, he will need to convert on the open looks. The team addressed its lack of perimeter shooting by signing Arron Afflalo and Marreese Speights. But Orlando needs their starters to also put the ball in the basket when left open.
Everyone knows that Gordon is a high flyer and can catch a lob at any moment. Once he develops a consistent jump shot to make defenders stay close to him, the offense for the Orlando Magic will change dramatically. Gordon also needs to be more aggressive attacking at the rim. There are too many instances where he opted to finesse the ball into the hoop with a lay up instead of going strong and finishing with a dunk. There are very few NBA players that can jump with Aaron Gordon and he needs to take advantage of those situations.
2017-18 Season Expectations for the Orlando Magic
Gordon is entering his fourth year in the association and a contract extension year. This is the year where the Orlando Magic find out if Aaron Gordon is a cornerstone or a role player. The new front office will also be evaluating whether or not he is worth keeping around at all. The Orlando Magic drafted Jonathan Isaac who looks like a potential all-star. Isaac is currently listed as a power forward but can play beside Gordon as a small forward or center. If Gordon does not take a step forward this season it will be less painful to watch him go with Isaac in fold waiting. Continuity with the coaching staff for the first time in his short career hopefully will push Gordon to make that leap.
Gordon will see lots of time on the court and will continue covering opponent’s best offensive weapons. He is already a household name due to the NBA All-Star Weekend Dunk contest a few years back and should aim to challenge for a spot on an All-Defensive NBA team. The Magic will look to push the tempo with this collection of athletic wings and versatile big men. That will give Gordon plenty of opportunity to showcase his worth and place in Orlando.
Projected 2017-18 position: Starting Power Forward