Name: Aaron Gordon
Position: Small Forward/Power Forward
Height: 6’8.75″ (with shoes)
Weight: 220 pounds
The primary reason Gordon is such a highly-rated prospect is because of his insane athleticism. He may well be the best athlete in this class. He’s incredibly explosive finishing around the rim, and has the potential to be a great weapon as the recipient on pick-and-roll and out-of-bounds plays. Gordon is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades on both ends of the floor. He works extremely hard on defense, and shows great court vision and willingness to pass on offense, too. You can throw “lunch pail” clichés out there all day, but they actually apply to a player like Gordon. Gordon possesses a quick first step with the ball and has strong enough handles to penetrate through the defense and get himself to the rim. This is the primary reason I see him translating better as a three than a four in the NBA. His blow-by potential is phenomenal, particularly for a player of his size. The quickness also translates to his play in the post, where he can spin quickly to separate from the defender and either finish it himself or find an open teammate. He’s clearly a very skilled passer and playmaker from anywhere on the floor. Gordon is an aggressive rebounder and his quick second-jump makes him particularly dangerous on the offensive glass. Gordon also won’t turn 19 until September, so he’s one of the youngest players in the draft pool.
Gordon’s main weakness is his inability to shoot. He was a terrible free-throw shooter last season (45%) and shot just 29% on jump shots. The majority of his scoring came around the basket, due in large part to the ease with which he was able to get into the paint. He’ll still be able to get easy baskets for himself, but smarter NBA defenders will know they can just play off of him and make him shoot over-the-top. Shooting is probably the easiest area in which players can improve over time, but Gordon is so raw in that area that he’ll need a ton of work. He also doesn’t really figure to be much of a power forward at the next level because if he isn’t able to spin past his defender in the post, he doesn’t shoot well enough to make them pay. Again, this is something that can be coached up. His jump shot doesn’t have an awful looking release, but it is a bit slow.
He’s going to have to add some muscle to his slight frame in order to be able to assert himself as much as he’d like, and his athleticism advantage won’t be as pronounced when playing against NBA-caliber talent.
The fact that Gordon is a bit of a tweener is what makes me a bit hesitant about him as a prospect. What position is he playing in the NBA? Small forwards that can’t shoot and power forwards with no post game and below-average strength don’t really have much of a place in the league. His dribbling and passing skills make me think he’s more of a three, and whichever team winds up drafting him will have to believe they can refine his game enough to make him at least an average shooter. His defensive versatility will be extremely useful, as he can guard anything from a point guard from a power forward, especially if he gets stronger. He’s drawn plenty of comparisons to Blake Griffin, which are apt in terms of athleticism and physical looks. Griffin, of course, has always been way bulkier than Gordon is. If he can develop a reliable shot, Gordon has a chance to be a Nicolas Batum-like player. And if he can REALLY develop his shot, he has the makings of a Paul George-type game. At worst, he’s a high-energy guy that will defend at a high level.