Aaron Gordon: Summer League Review & Highlights
The Orlando Magic’s 4th overall Draft selection Aaron Gordon reminded us that he is in fact 18 years old. The Arizona Wildcats product was born after Orlando’s first Finals run, so any critiques of the 6′ 9″ forward do need to be kept in perspective. The 220-pounder was chosen first and foremost to eventually become a first-team all-NBA defender, and in that regard Gordon did well guarding SGs, SFs, PFs, and even centers. The offense will come, and so will his physical maturity. Aaron played in all 5 Orlando Summer League contests. His averages at 26.4 minutes per game were 7.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 1.2 apg on 35.0 FG%, 0-for-10 3-point shooting, and 47.8 FT%. Plenty of room for offensive improvement.
Let’s take a look at Aaron’s 2014 Summer League.
July 5th – 83-77 win over the Philadelphia 76ers
7 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block on 3-of-11 shooting in 25 minutes.
That block is just a hint at what type of athletic feats Magic fans will see out of Aaron this season. It’s also quite fitting that Gordon’s first basket of Summer League came in the form of a smooth dunk as a result of a transition break and find by Victor Oladipo. Get used to it. Aaron is going to make guys like Nerlens Noel appear slow. Gordon started at SF and proved to be communicating very well with Romero Osby who was playing PF. Aaron shot a lot of airballs and off-balanced clankers throughout the week, but that didn’t prevent Gordon from getting to the rim as he displays at the 21-second mark. He blows past K.J. McDaniels with his swift dribbling and had enough momentum to flip up a finger roll as three Sixers converged on him.
Being able to dribble penetrate without defenders fearing his jump shot will be difficult, but Aaron’s athleticism will prove invaluable to open up even the slightest of spaces for teammates to shoot jumpers. It’s just up to Gordon to find those open men just like he did with the dish to Victor for the 3-pointer. At the 39-second mark, we see Hollis Thompson giving Aaron the entire left side of the court to drive and finish confidently past Noel. The last clip is Gordon displaying his tenacity as he misses his first shot in the paint, but fights off Philly’s frontcourt to nab the rebound and finish before any Sixer has time to recover and challenge the shot. Aaron is mature beyond his years.
Below you’ll find more of Aaron Gordon’s Summer League week.
July 7th – 87-69 win over the Houston Rockets
9 points and 7 rebounds on 4-for-7 shooting (1-of-5 FTs) in 22 minutes.
Once again, Gordon started at power forward. It was the only game of the five that Aaron shot better than fifty percent. His free throw form looks a lot better than how it was at Arizona, but it’s all about repetition and consistency now. Look at the acceleration Aaron has in comparison to 6′ 4″ guard Jabari Brown on the steal and fast break finish. At the 16-second mark, Aaron comes around a screen and drives past both Brown and Maarty Leunen for the hesitation basket. Next, Osby sets a fantastic double screen and Aaron displays his jump shooting potential. Gordon sets his feet and releases the ball high where it can’t be blocked. Swish.
Aaron then cleans up a Kim English miss by taking advantage of his size against Jabari Brown, Gordon gets and and-1 call as he had the strength to move 253-pound Tarik Black out of the way. At the 1-minute mark, Gordon cuts in a flash past Chris Crawford on an Osby pass and gets fouled again at the basket by Black. Gordon’s highlight reel finishes with Elfrid Payton passing over a double team as Gordon once again catches Houston’s defense sleeping on the baseline cutters. Jermaine Marshall and Miro Bilan react way too slowly. Cutting and exploiting size and speed mismatches is how I expect Gordon to score during his rookie campaign. The jumper and post-up moves will come with time. Here’s his postgame interview.
July 8th – 73-80 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies
4 points on 0-for-3 FGs and 4-of-4 FTs in 26 minutes.
This second game of a back-to-back was forgettable for all Magic players. With Osby out healing his shoulder, this is when Aaron had to switch to more of a power forward role. Memphis was very physical as guys like Jarnell Stokes dominated the boards.
July 10th – 67-76 loss to the Boston Celtics
7 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block on 3-of-10 FGs (0-for-3 on 3s) in 31 minutes.
Osby returned to the lineup, but Orlando’s offense didn’t. Other than Elfrid’s lob to Gordon for the alley oop lay-up finish to open the game, and then the nice free throw line pull-up jumper over Chris Babb at the start of the third quarter, there’s not too much more to mention about Aaron. He did get back to rebounding the way we expect him too. Marcus Smart had a phenomenal fourth quarter to steal the victory from the Magic.
July 11th – 96-87 win over the Detroit Pistons
12 point, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists on 4-of-9 FGs and 4-of-8 FTs in 28 minutes.
Saved his best for last. Aaron found himself playing center against Tony Mitchell and Jordan Heath, and doing quite well still getting to the charity stripe. We see Gordon and Elfrid rebuilding their Team USA chemistry as Aaron jams home a Payton alley oop feed. At the 38-second mark, Aaron blows past Brian Cook on a drive and finds Vernon Macklin due to Mitchell having to help out. Next, Gordon rolls past Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and gets a lefty and-1 tip to drop as Mitchell was too slow to challenge Elfrid’s feed to Aaron.
At the 1:14 mark, Gordon dribbled the ball up court and eventually gets a bounce pass to Devyn Marble for the corner jumper. Watch closely as four Pistons had their attention on Aaron. We then see Gordon once again abuse Tony Mitchell with his superior ball handling skills for another and-1. At 1:47, Oladipo draws in the defense and Aaron sneaks baseline for an easy reverse lay-up. At the 2:03 mark, Aaron again is bringing the ball up the court. Gordon puts DeAndre Liggins in the spin cycle before finding Elfrid for a tough finish at the basket. Aaron finishes his clip with a stand-up rejection of KCP. Gordon knows that statistics are not everything and that he has a lot of positives to carry over in preparation for training camp.
Four of Aaron’s 7 turnovers at Summer League came in the first game against Philadelphia. So despite Gordon handling the ball a lot, he did a decent job of not coughing it up. Aaron’s dribbling skills are outstanding for a man of his size, he just needs to learn how to avoid getting caught in traffic. The 35 FG% is misleading considering many of his misses were on off-balanced shots. Summer League is for experimenting and in that regard it was very successful for Gordon. Then there were a few times where Gordon couldn’t back down or overpower his defender. A muscle-building program alleviates that. I’m fairly confident that Aaron will be a better free throw shooter than Dwight Howard even if it doesn’t appear that way presently. It’ll be interesting to see how many 3-pointers Aaron attempts, and if Gordon can keep his jump shot form and feet consistent.
I’m still very adamant that Aaron should be groomed to be a power forward. The signing of Channing Frye shouldn’t change that. Plus, it leaves Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless as the Magic’s main SFs. Blake Griffin wasn’t much of an offensive beast his first few seasons in the league, and Gordon is already a better defender than Griffin. The similarities in build and body motion can’t be ignored. But if you talk to Channing Frye or hear this interview from his college coach Sean Miller, they both think Aaron can be similar to NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. So we’ll just have to wait and see what Jacque Vaughn and the rest of the coaching squad has in store for Aaron. Gordon’s impact will be felt immediately both on defense and in the transition game. Just know that it’s not failure if Gordon isn’t starting opening night or at the end of the season.