Time-and-time again. Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon has amazed us with his incredible athleticism.
With such ease, he’s seemingly bouncing off the floor in what seems to be a fast-forward function compared to his peers.
During his time in high school, many people compared Gordon to Los Angeles Clippers superstar Blake Griffin, because of his explosion and versatility. And after spending his lone season at the University of Arizona it became very clear that Gordom was more of a combo-forward who could pass, rebound, defend, handle the ball and score in a few different ways.
So when the Magic decided to take Gordom fourth overall in the 2014 draft, there was a ton of expectation for him to be the forward to compliment with young guards Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton, who was taken six picks later by the Philadelphia 76ers and immediately traded to Orlando.
Gordon’s rookie year was rough. He missed 31 consecutive games due to a fractured bone in his left foot, and when he did play, he didn’t seem comfortable. In the 47 games Gordon played in his rookie year, he averaged only 5.2 points in 17 minutes per-game on 42% shooting. Essentially, the season was lost, and with Gordon showing an inability to shoot or at least make perimeter shots, it was easy to wonder if this would hinder his development.
Later that summer, Gordon would rejoin the Magic for the 2015 NBA Summer League, where he averaged 21.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks in three games. Not only did Gordon dominate the stat-sheet, but it was the style in which he did it.
An improved jump-shot, whether it be on curls, spot-ups or even on pull-ups, it was clear he had improved in this facet of the game tremendously.
— Dawkins (@DawkinsMTA) July 29, 2015
In came the question though, was the new jump-shot sustainable enough for Gordon to be a small forward? Or was he better off being a jack-of-all-trades power forward?
After bouncing back and forth between both forward positions last season, Gordon broke out in all sorts of ways. Am athletic and intelligent two-way player, whose all-around game really showed up. All in one particular position. Not the small forward, but the power forward, is where Gordon really found a groove — as we analyze the Magic’s ten best lineups featuring Gordon from the 2015-2016 season.
As you can see in the Magic’s top ten lineups featuring Gordon, only ONE had him at the small forward position, while the other nine lineups all have him featured at the power forward position. It is really simple that Gordon’s best position was to be a power forward, and to use his athleticism and skill to throw off bigger, slower power forwards.
This past summer, the Magic made moves that seriously questioned whether Gordon would get any minutes at power forward. First, they traded with the Oklahoma City Thunder for power forward Serge Ibaka on draft night, who an obvious starter as well as a three-time NBA Defensive First-team. Just a few weeks later, the Magic then signed big man Bismack Biyombo to a four-year, $74 million deal. So with Nikola Vucevic under team-control for a few years, that’s an expensive three-man rotation in the front court. This also left Gordon with no choice but to play small forward, something the organization should have known wasn’t best for his development. They then began looking for trade partners for Ibaka earlier this month as it was becoming obvious he would not re-sign.
Once the Magic traded Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, the first thing that came to mind: Gordon can return to the power forward position and increase his level of play, as the regression has been obvious. While his points-per-game has increased this season (11.2 compared to last season’s 9.2) it has come at a cost across the board. With his shooting percentage dropping from 47% to 42% and his rebounding falling by almost two a game, the focus should be getting him back being comfortable on the floor.
(Maybe Aaron Gordon can play power forward now? Please?)
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) February 14, 2017
First-year Magic and former Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel announced after the trade that Gordon would spend the rest of the season starting at the power forward position. So it seems that Vogel himself or the front office, has finally quit the small forward “experiment.”
Gordon can now focus on being at one position, and finally see the progression that we saw last year from the 21-year-old.