Frontline help is needed for the Laker team. There’s an anticipation of trading Pau Gasol, or just letting his contract expire at the end of this season. Mike D’Antoni needs an athletic frontline to compliment his pick and roll schemes. Amare Stoudemire did so in the past, playing center for the Phoenix Suns during their most successful playoff years of the past decade.
Aaron Gordon has decent size at the power forward position. At a full 6’9″ in shoes, with a 6’11.5″ wingspan, there are some concerns about length. His standing reach is 8’10.5″, which isn’t great for a starting power forward, but players such as Blake Griffin and Kevin Love have been able to get away with it. He needs more strength to compete effectively at the power forward spot, but once he does, he’ll be able to fulfill his NBA upside professionally.
Athletically, he’s a beast. While he hasn’t always shown a tremendous vertical at Arizona, numerous high school clips will remind you of Blake Griffin comparisons. Even more surprisingly, he has guard-like lateral quickness. He’s a huge reason for Arizona’s success defensively, being able to switch on pick and roll situations, onto point guards, and effectively cut down penetration, wall off the painted area, and contest jumpshots effectively. It’s a rare talent at a front court position, but he has it in spades. He runs the floor in transition like a small forward, has a great motor, and a good first step when attacking the paint.
Offensively, there is much to be developed. He’s an underrated passer, similar to Blake Griffin. He has some ball-handling ability with a basic crossover, in-and-out dribble, and footwork, also similar to Blake Griffin. He is capable if hitting the 3-pointer at NCAA range, more advanced than Blake Griffin by age. There is a sense that he lacks perimeter touch given his 41.8% free throw percentage, 29.8% 3-point percentage, and 49.3% within the arc. He’s a face up power forward, able to drive in either direction, utilize a spin move, and finish at the basket. He’s trying to get his defenders to bite on his 3-point shot, but it hasn’t been effective this year. His post game is something that needs to be worked on overall. There’s no definitive jumphook, inside pivot, up and under, or other advanced moves in the paint that he relies on. Instead, he’s a crafty finisher in the paint, using his explosiveness to complete the play.
Defensively, he’s special. While he doesn’t force a lot of turnovers or block a lot of shots, both 0.6 and 0.9 respectively, he’s an excellent positional defender who never puts his team at a compromise defensively. From small forward to point guard, he can keep up and contain dribble penetration. He has issues against bigger post players with strong bases, competes and uses his motor to defend effectively. It’s easy for him to get backed down into the paint, but as soon as he anticipates a shot, he creates a wall to contest, which is very effective. Team defense also comes easily for him. He uses great basketball IQ to juke out assignments that aren’t his, and get them flustered on a pass or a shot to the basket. Considering the amount of possessions of an NCAA game, he’s an above average rebounder, and that’s easily an NBA translatable skill.
Overall, he’s a high-risk, high-reward pick. There are Blake Griffin comparisons and their skills and athletic abilities are very comparable. Griffin was able to amass tremendous strength during his sophomore year, which allowed him to use physical tools on top of his skills and accent what he does on the basketball floor. Five years into the league, Griffin finally looks like a perennial All-Star; a gladiator on the basketball court. Ultimately, this would be Aaron Gordon’s upside. He would be a face up power forward, able to slash hard from the high post and finish with authority. With further developed perimeter consistency and homework being done learning post play, it wouldn’t be surprising if he fulfills his Griffin-like potential.
There is a fear though, that Gordon is a tweener and will end up a role player. If so, his game would be similar to Nick Collison or Derrick Williams. What he needs to do is make that growth, the separation of becoming a role player into stardom, and understanding that the weight room is the one thing that’ll keep him a lottery pick. This is the only reason why he’s projected to go #6 or later, otherwise he would be an obvious steal pick.
If he is chosen, there is one thing to lessen that worry. He has a reputation for tremendous basketball IQ and work ethic off the floor. Of the great Team USA prospects, he was the one named 2013 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the year. He has intangibles in spades; a great motor, great character, and he’s known for being a great teammate. When he’s perceived with those intangibles, it’s easier to consider him a safe pick and a player most likely to reach his superstar potential. Imagine how Blake Griffin would look in a Mike D’Antoni offense…