Aaron Gordon is one of a few who might be worth the Phoenix Suns packaging their two mid-first-round picks to move up in the 2014 NBA Draft. The question is whether he, like so many others, drops far enough for that to be a possibility.
The youngest player in the draft averaged 12 points, eight boards and two assists as a college freshman at Arizona yet is already one of the most physically gifted players in his class. While he impressed with a 39-inch vertical leap, a number that’s elite for a playing pushing 6-foot-9, it was his combine-leading shuttle run that hinted just how athletic the Arizona forward is as a defender. As he gains weight, he’ll be able to guard power forwards in the NBA and as a four could better fit the Blake Griffin comparison, but he’s immediately going to be able to defend wings. His ball-handling is probably better than most would give him credit for, and that combined with a Shawn Marion-like work on the glass gives him the ability to lead a fastbreak from a forward slot.
Gordon’s 43 percent free throw shooting was a major concern, as was his lack of a scorer’s mentality. Defenses often sank all the way into the paint against Gordon, who then struggled with the confidence about whether to take an uncontested jumper or attack the hoop. While Gordon’s ball handling in the fullcourt is above average for a player his size, he doesn’t have the ability to change direction driving to the rim in the halfcourt and didn’t show the comfort level in the pick-and-roll — that again went back to Gordon not having a knack for scoring.
The success at the next level for Gordon isn’t hinging on his scoring ability changing overnight, though he must develop one or two ways in which he is comfortable scoring. Spotting up could be the first one, as Gordon did shoot a decent 35.6 percent from three-point range while taking them overly-selectively. The dynamic bits of Gordon’s game come in his unselfishness and — sorry to use the term — motor, which was among the best in college basketball this season. If Gordon fine-tunes his ball handling and gains weight, however, he very well could become the rare power forward capable of leading a fastbreak.
How would he fit on the Suns
While it’s unlikely to see Gordon slide to the Suns’ 14th spot in the 2014 draft, he could be within reach if he slips into the eighth or so spot in the draft (the Kings reportedly want to deal their eighth overall pick, after all). The Arizona product would fit into the Suns’ team-first character and would likely make P.J. Tucker more expendable in free agency.
Gordon would be able to fill Tucker’s shoes from a rebounding perspective and, even as a rookie, hold his own defensively. The versatility by Gordon might give him some backup power forward minutes immediately if Channing Frye opts out, though that would be less than ideal for a player who put on weight before the combine but still only weighed in at 221 pounds. Additionally, Gordon would be able to develop his shooting stroke a la Archie Goodwin with the tutelage of Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek.
Most importantly, the Suns would have a third playmaker after Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, and they’d be getting one who wouldn’t need or desire the ball in his hands all the time to make an impact.