Aaron Gordon Is Busting Out

The Orlando Magic's hyper-athletic forward is having a bona fide breakout season. We take a look at the leap.

Over the first few years of his career, Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic was known more for his dunks than his overall game. Admittedly, doing this kind of stuff can have that affect on your reputation:

But the fourth-year, 22-year-old forward is opening people's eyes this season, showing he's more than just a one-trick pony.

Last night, in a 121-108 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Gordon's all-around game was on full display. In what was arguably the best game of his young career, he totaled 40 points on 13-for-23 shooting from the field, 6-for-12 from long range, and 8-for-11 from the free throw line, while tossing in 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, a block, and only 1 turnover in 44 minutes of action.

For fantasy hoops lovers, his 78.0 FanDuel Points were the fifth-highest total by any player this season, trailing only games from Joel Embiid (93.5), LeBron James (92.7), James Harden (80.7), DeMarcus Cousins (79.6).That's elite company.

Of course, the dunks were still there:

But that monster line puts the young Gordon in a sentence that includes two of arguably the best players in Orlando's 29-year franchise history:

And it wasn't just a one-game thing. He's already carving out his spot among the Magic's best with his inspired play through his 18 games played this season as well:

Last year, Gordon was arguably misused, being forced out of his more natural power forward position into the small forward slot for 63% of his 28.7 minutes per game. With Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green both off the Magic's roster this season, Gordon's been able to play 91% of his 32.9 minutes per contest at the four, and the results have been gangbusters.

Season Minutes Points FG% 3P% FT% Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers
2016-17 28.7 12.7 45.4% 28.8% 71.9% 5.1 1.9 0.8 0.5 1.1
2017-18 32.9 18.6 51.0% 43.8% 76.5% 8.4 2.2 1.1 0.9 1.5

Gordon's 2.3 triples, 1.1 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game put him pretty darn close to a fairly exclusive club of players who have managed to average at least 1.0 in each of those peripheral stats this season. As of now, the only guys on that list are LeBron James, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Victor Oladipo, John Wall, Paul Millsap, and Danny Green. That's basically five multiple-time All-Stars in James, Green, Cousins, Wall, and Millsap, a likely-to-be first-timer this year in Oladipo, and Danny Green. If Aaron Gordon keeps playing as well as he has so far this season, he won't be long joining them too.

But it's Gordon's sterling efficiency that has anchored his breakout campaign, particularly from long range, where he has seen a 15% jump in accuracy in 2017-18. Gordon (2.3 triples at 43.8%), Kevin Durant (2.6 at 43.1%), and Tobias Harris (2.9 at 46.7%) are the only forwards in the league hitting over 2.3 triples a game at a success rate over 43%.

Gordon ranks 12th in the entire Association in effective field goal percentage (weighted two and threes) and 14th in true shooting percentage (weighted two-threes, and free throws) at 63.4%, bringing those numbers up from 49.9% and 53.0% last year, respectively.

That level of efficiency also has him ranked 16th in offensive rating (121.1), 16th in offensive win shares (1.8), 20th in total win shares (2.4), 17th in offensive box plus/minus (3.6), and 20th in value over replacement player (0.9). He also comes in 19th in our NBA Player Power Rankings with a 2.4 nERD -- our proprietary metric that measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on his efficiency.

So far in 2017-18, Aaron Gordon has been a breakout player performing at an All-Star level. If he doesn't get selected to the actual team for his first time this year, he'll at least be in the running for the league's Most Improved Player award.

Either way, it won't only be the dunks that keep us tuning in to watch Aaron Gordon.