By Josh Cohen
Last season was a roller coaster for Aaron Gordon, who erupted for 30-plus points in four games, played outstanding individual defense and showcased his elite athleticism. He also struggled from 3-point range for extended stretches and had trouble adapting to a small forward assignment.
The switch to the four, however, spurred AG and he flourished after the All-Star break. In the 24 games he appeared in to close out the season, Gordon averaged 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and delivered several electrifying performances.
A fourth overall draft pick in 2014 by the Magic, Gordon showed that he’s far more valuable as a roll-man in pick-and-roll situations. AG shot 51.2 percent (58.5 effective FG percentage) when he was the screener and scoring target. In contrast, the four-year veteran shot 34.7 percent (38.4 effective FG percentage) when he was the ball handler and attacker.
The two-time slam dunk contest participant has a knack for cutting and slashing inside. With his long strides, agility, mobility and activeness, AG does a superb job eluding defenders. Gordon shot an incredible 88 percent from the field when he cut to the basket and he had an 11.4 percent AND-1 rate on these possessions.
Adding more muscle to his frame, which by the looks of it it appears he did, and becoming a more reliable 3-point shooter were at the forefront of his development.
Especially if he’s playing the four on a permanent basis, it’s essential that he has the strength and resistance to defend more physical, post-oriented players. It would also help him absorb and initiate more contact on his drives to the rim.
Gordon has worked tirelessly on his outside jumper as well. If he can bump that 28.8 percent 3-point shooting mark last year to, let’s say, 33 or 34 percent, AG will be a far more efficient offensive player. He has good form and mechanics and a fairly quick release but sometimes he’s not balanced when he squares up to the hoop.
Highly disciplined and a true gym rat, the gifted athlete is confident all his hard work will pay off.
“The offseason you work on skill after skill after skill and you do drill after drill after drill, footwork, ball handling, shooting, a lot of different things,” he said about his offseason workouts. “In the game you get to let that kind of flow naturally out. Over the course of the season, you guys are going to see, oh wow, Aaron put that in his game or he’s doing that more smoothly.”