Aaron Gordon isn't the biggest name in the draft, but he has all the potential to be one of the household names whose name was called during the 2014 NBA Draft. This is why it really wasn't a total shock when the Orlando Magic selected him fourth overall.
Gordon, a University of Arizona standout, declared for the draft after his freshman year, a campaign during which he tallied 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. Even though he's only 18 years old, Gordon already is listed around 6'9" and 220 pounds - not bad for someone shy of 20.
If you want a physical comparison, he's been likened to Blake Griffin, but Griffin was heftier during his college days than Gordon is now. Rather, he might be a better comparison with Kenneth Faried.
Here's a look at some of their measurements taken before their respective drafts, 2014 and 2011.
|Player||Height (W/ Shoes)||Weight||Wingspan||Reach||Max. Vertical|
|Aaron Gordon||6' 8.75"||220||6' 11.75"||8' 9"||39"|
|Kenneth Faried||6' 7.5"||225||7' 0"||9' 0"||35"|
There are a lot of other similarities between Gordon and Faried, too, which is a very good sign for the Magic.
Not So Magical in Orlando
The Magic ranked a lowly 25th within our nERD metric, which we use to gauge how good a team actually is. (You can read more about it here.) Their nERD score of 33.5 was well below the league average (50.0, naturally). Nikola Vucevic's injury-plagued season really set the Magic back, but the team got almost no help from the rest of the roster.
Vucevic was only one of three Magic players to record a positive nERD score (1.6). The other two with positive nERD scores were also bigs: Tobias Harris (0.9) and Kyle O'Quinn (0.3).
The departure of Arron Afflalo (-0.2) opens up a ton of minutes at the small forward position, which Gordon might be able to fill because of his ability to compete and play NBA-ready basketball.
Gordon's Transferable Game
What tends to plague some college studs in their transition to the NBA is no longer facing weaker competition - competition either in the form undersized, underpowered, or underwhelming conferences or teammates which can lead to some elevated usage rates or counting stats. Gordon is one of the lottery picks destined to suffer the least from the new talent pool in the pros because of how he impacts the game.
Gordon already doesn't rely much on his offense to impact the game. This is bad news for the Magic, honestly, who ranked 29th in offensive efficiency per our calculations. However, he's the type of player who can earn second-chance points for his team. Gordon pulled in 303 total rebounds (3rd-best in the Pac-12 Conference) and 102 offensive boards (tops in the conference). He converted on 51.3% of his two-point field goal attempts - not a great rate but not a terrible one for a player so young. After all, Faried's two-point field goal percentage in his freshman year at Morehead State was 52.2%.
Gordon's tenacity translated much better on the defensive end of the ball, where he shows his most potential at the NBA level.
For the offensive inefficiencies that plagued Gordon as a freshman, he more than made up for it on the other end of the court.
As a team, the Wildcats ranked first in adjusted defense in the nation, per KenPom.com, which was due in large part to Gordon's impact on the defensive end. According to Sports-Reference.com, Gordon led the nation in defensive win shares with 3.3. Additionally, he ranked 13th in the country in Defensive Rating (88.6). This was first in the Pac-12 as well.
What makes Gordon unique is his ability to defend multiple positions, which he'll likely have to do with the Magic's roster and his ability to play both forward spots. The youngster has the promise to grow into one of the best overall defenders in the NBA. He posted incredible defensive metrics while averaging just 2.4 fouls per game. This defense was a critical reason why Gordon and the Wildcats were able to sustain an injury to point guard Brandon Ashley and still manage to reach the Elite Eight.
If he can play with the confidence he showed at Arizona, he can help catapult the Magic from 17th in defensive efficiency to an above-average defensive team in 2014-15.
Areas of Improvement
A player as young as Gordon and one who plays for a restructuring team like the Magic will have plenty of time to find his offensive rhythm and a shooting touch. He shot an abysmal 42.2% from the free throw line in his lone year at Arizona, and his inability to create his own offense could clog the paint for the Magic this year. This is bad news for Vucevic, but Gordon possesses enough athleticism to suggest he can eventually learn to create his own offense. After all, this was a similar situation for Griffin, who is now considered a premiere offensive talent in the league.
If the Magic can help Gordon develop a jumper and if Gordon brings his intensity to Orlando, then he's going to emerge as a top talent in this loaded 2014 NBA Draft, a pick fully worthy of going fourth off the board.