By Josh Cohen
Oct. 9, 2017
ORLANDO – Aaron Gordon has been ascending since last season’s All-Star break. He averaged 16.4 points and 6.2 rebounds over his last 24 games of 2016-17 and is off to a hot start this preseason.
So, why the progression? For one and perhaps most important, AG works really hard and has the right attitude. He wants so badly to be one of the best players in the league and in franchise history.
Moreover, the athletically gifted and versatile forward flourishes in an up tempo offense. He gets up and down the floor as well as any player in the NBA. He’s relentless, mobile, fast and energetic. With his improved ball handling, he can initiate the offense down the court, trail a play or race past everyone and catch alley-oops.
Also conspicuous, Gordon is significantly better at the four rather than the three. While it is worth noting that he looks far more comfortable operating as the shot creator and playmaker out of the pick-and-roll, AG is really smooth when he sets the screen and rolls inside.
He shot 51.2 percent (58.5 effective FG percentage) when he was the screener and scoring target in 2016-17. In contrast, Gordon shot 34.7 percent (38.4 effective FG percentage) when he was the ball handler and attacker.
It’s also easier for him to thrive when a slower, more methodical opponent is guarding him (like Kelly Olynyk during Saturday’s game against Miami).
Gordon is extremely efficient when he cuts to the hoop. With his agility, fleetness and good hands, the four-year pro is electrifying when he flashes inside. He shot 26-for-35 (74.3 percent) from the floor on cut layups after the position switch last year.
The Achilles’ heel of his game early in his career has been his 3-point shooting (28.8 percent last season). He’s worked tirelessly on his form and range. Through the first three games of this preseason, Gordon is shooting 44 percent (4-of-9) from beyond the arc.
Here’s a look at a few plays from Saturday’s win over the Heat that help illustrate Gordon’s offensive development:
AG BEATS EVERYONE DOWN FLOOR IN TRANSITION
IMPROVED BODY CONTROL & BALANCE
PICK-AND-POP WITH PAYTON
OLYNYK LOSES SIGHT OF GORDON