Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NBA Draft: Aaron Gordon has the skills the Suns covet


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.

Strengths

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.

Weaknesses

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.

X-factor

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.


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  • steppxxxxz

    oh man, the ideal guy for the Suns. My first pick,,,,,Im a believer in AG. Only 18, think on that. Freak athlete, great work ethic, still growing. Has that uncanny ability to get in the air quick like Faried does. Could also develop as Faried has on offense. As good on defense as any college player Ive ever seen. Impact defender. Id love them to move up and try to snag him. I rate him ahead of all but embiid (assuming healthy), wiggens and Exum. Ill take him before Parker.

    • Glen Alan Nagunst

      You can teach ft shooting and mid range shooting, look at the late Amare Stoudemire. You however can’t teach a love of defense and athleticism and a motor and my friends AG got all that! suns would be lucky to have that! Think Shawn Marion all over again 21, 11, 5 every game and he will shut down the opposing teams best players. All in for Gordon!

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    Anthony Bennett, Derrick Williams and now Aaron Gordon. Color me cynical. Bulls selected a similar player at #30 last year, Jimmy Butler. This is supposedly a deep draft but there obviously aren’t any immediate stars. Hoping that an 18 year-old project drops to the Suns isn’t all that encouraging. Suns picked up the back-court version of Gordon last year at # 29. His fantastic defense at the college level was also suppose to earn him minutes in his rookie season.

    McDonough doesn’t like to double up on positions but there has been a lot of talk of him using two of his picks on Europeans and 19 year-old Bosnian center Jusuf Nurkic seems to be targeted. A little bit of motivation for Alex Len and Miles Plumlee I suppose.

    Three picks and nobody to use them on.

  • 4everis2long

    Forgive me for being a downer but I would not trade 2 first round picks to get A. Gordon. IMO it has to be Vonleh or Randall to move up or I recommend staying at 14 and 18. Very poor free throws and a bit undersized. I pose this question again, Would anyone trade all three 1st round picks to the Lakers to get Randall or Markief and two 1st round picks? I vote the latter or two 1st round picks this year and the Lakers can have their own pick back next year for their #7 pick.

    • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

      Lakers pick in ’15 has a very good chance of being between the 7th and 14th. It has value. I’d give them that one and the 14th this year for Randall. Markieff has improved improved enough to let him ride out his rookie contract.

      So you’ve noticed Gordon is classic “tweener”. I know he isn’t identical to Bennett and D-Will but with only the top four guys really being of “star” quality, I’m fascinated how these other youngsters rise up the ranks.

      • 4everis2long

        Thanks for your thoughts EBJM. I think the problem in keeping Markief is Frye will likely still be on Planet Orange next season along with Kief and possibly the power forward the Suns draft should they complete the discussed trade. Definitely agree Gordon is close to being a tweener. While I think this is a good draft I am not convinced there are any superstars, Durant, LBJ, Wade, Kobe, et al. There are not any game changers in this draft.

        Regarding the Lakers 2015 draft pick, have you heard anything on the projected talent for next years crop? If it is projected as being weak I would give the 2015 pick back if we could get Randall or Vonleh. However if it is projected to be a good draft, the 2015 pick would be non-negotiable.

        • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

          Duke freshman center Jahil Okafur is rumored to be a one and done. 6′-11″ and 270# with an NBA ready body and game. The key here is he is a distant cousin of Emeka Okafur. Perhaps McDonough should be friendlier with Emeka? Jahil also has a wingspan of 7′-3″. He also has monster paws. I’d be interested to see if he has Kwahi Leonard size paws.

          He has been projected as a #2 pick in ’15 already. His offensive game has been compared to Al Jefferson and the kid is only 17. Emeka is from Houston so that is the sum total of my knowledge of future draft prospects for ’15.

          • 4everis2long

            Thanks Guest. Nice profile for Jahil.

        • DBreezy

          I think it’s too hard to say early on if there are or aren’t any game changers in any draft these days. Two of the 4 guys you mentioned above were not considered game changers going into their respective drafts and one was drafted in the late lottery (along with another game changer in Steve Nash). I think we’re in line for a lot more future stars who develop into those roles 2-4 years into their careers vs. off the bat than we’ve seen in the past. The key is having a GM good at projecting that when your team is in upswing mode like the Suns are which is different than what guys like Buford are looking at at times.

          • 4everis2long

            IMO Wade is the only one not highly thought of in terms of a superstar due to his height. In recalling the reviews on Durant there were concerns about his slim build but his skills for his size were really impressive. I think all of those guys were thought of pretty high though Kobe was really raw coming straight out of high school. I admit game changers is probably a vague term because I think there are future allstars just not any superstars.

          • DBreezy

            From what I remember, Wade was decently thought of going into his junior year at Marquette, but he didn’t really blow up as a prospect until Marquette’s great season took him to the Final Four where he was big time. In that draft I remember people being mostly curious about whether Darko over Melo or Bosh was a smart move more than Wade slipping to 5. In fact IIRC, the prevailing thought was that Wade was going to have to play the 1 in the NBA due to his height and because I think the Heat were playing him alongside Eddie Jones, Caron Butler and Lamar Odom. I remember seeing him live his rookie season vs the Wiz and thinking he was special, but I didn’t realize how special at the time. While Kobe was considered an intriguing prospect, he didn’t go as high as KG (5th) the year before or T-Mac (9th) the year after.

            I hate the superstar term because I think it’s too subjective. I mean Dirk was one over-exuberant Miami quarter away from people saying he wasn’t a superstar despite great numbers and two finals appearances. Reggie Miller is generally considered a superstar by the media and definitely was a part of some good postseason squads, yet look at his numbers compared to guys like T-Mac or Dominique who played with generally lesser squads in their careers and got hammered for it. I mean seriously look at T-Mac’s numbers in 2002-2003. How are both he and Vince Carter thought of if they didn’t split up? ESPN is already starting a drumbeat on several shows questioning whether CP3 is a superstar or not.

            Today’s superstar just comes about differently than they used to save for the occasional Durant. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Wiggins for example becomes a T-Mac type player, but just like Tracy it will probably take a few seasons. Anthony Davis is on pace to be a beast, but even as a surefire prospect it’s taking a few seasons. Given his history with Dwight Howard, you have to be excited with what SVG can do with Andre Drummond especially since he seems to be a more willing learner and is smoother with a softer touch than Howard. I would be thrilled to have a top 5 pick in this draft, but I would be expecting things to take time.

          • 4everis2long

            IMO superstar is reserved for those whose game will be superb for years to come and likely a hall of famer. I remember Jerry West being so high on Kobe in the draft due to his skills but more so his work ethic he was going to trade whoever he had to to acquire him. Of course the term is subjective as like love it is in the eye of the beholder. However the great GMs are right more than most when they see tangibles and intangibles combined that will likely make a player an allstar or even a superstar.

            I go back to OKC trading Harding and keeping Ibaka. Harden certainly is a very good player but OKC apparently felt if we are paying someone other than Durant and Westbrook $10m plus/yr, it was going to be someone with defensive intensity and growing offense. While they have not won a championship yet, I am confident they will shortly. The great GMs are right more times than not with their subjective viewpoints as they project into the future better than those who have to take the safer wait and see approach.

            Haven’t seen you in awhile DB, where have you been?

          • DBreezy

            I’ve just been real busy with work and family, although I’ve been lurking on the board and reading all of the comments. I even made a few of my own previously that disappeared somehow, oh well. I like your definition of superstar in the sense that it doesn’t place an inordinate amount of weight on postseason success. Practically speaking though since media hammers the latter so much it becomes a huge factor in HOF voting. It’s why there’s already been debate on whether T-Mac should or will get into the HOF and why there’s even been discussion of whether a role player like Robert Horry should be considered.

            I also think guys like T-Mac bring up what is imo a dumb factor in both HOF voting and people giving someone superstar status: likability. T-Mac wasn’t a bad dude and pretty much never got in trouble with teammates or the law. He just had a face that looked like he was asleep all the time, not a crime last I checked with Robert Parish or Sam Perkins, but it’s a subtle part of why he’s never been the most popular of superstar players. It was/is a factor with AI. It’s a factor in people saying that Grant Hill is a likely HOF despite a career that was far more derailed by injury than T-Mac’s with even more postseason futility. It’s a factor with Westbrook for a lot of people, and if he keeps ascending it will likely be a problem for Bledsoe. There already have been articles about this on Bright Side and it doesn’t help him that he’s next to an incredibly likable guy in Goran. Too many people seem to think that you have to be personally in love with a particular player’s personality and game for them to even get consideration as a superstar.

            As far as on court stuff goes, the best way to describe a superstar to me is consistently disruptive. To me that covers a lot of things that aren’t always under a player’s control like: horrific rosters and/or coaching, bad injury breaks, and wrong place/wrong time in league history. Depending on the individual case, it also covers efficiency questions. For example, I look past AI’s efficiency because of that roster. He heavily affected the game regardless and won a lot to boot. I don’t feel the same way about a guy like Demar Derozan who hasn’t been consistently disruptive and has a roster around him that says his efficiency should be higher imo.

            It does make it interesting looking at individual players though. You mentioned Harden, who I feel has been consistently disruptive both in OKC and HOU but obviously this year’s playoff performance will have him under the microscope. Conversely, this season and postseason has elevated Lamarcus Aldridge’s status, yet when I look at his career overall I can’t say that I feel he’s been consistently disruptive. There’s too many nights that you didn’t even know he was there and it wasn’t just because he was missing a bunch of shots like Harden did. Also how do you weigh in the giant conference disparities when talking about the ascension of guys like Davis or Love for example relative to guys like Wall and Beal? Jrue Holiday is possibly a perennial all-star out East, but even if he returns to form he won’t be one in the West. The only way he sees it is if they overachieve and the coaches give it to him that season. If not he will join other strong guards in the afterthought category All-star wise like Ty Lawson, Monta Ellis, and probably Dragic/Bledsoe going forward. It seems a safe bet that at least one of Exum or Smart is headed to the Western conference so it probably won’t get any easier.

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    Suns should invite this guy to camp,Sim Bhullar, a 7′-5″ 360# sophomore center from New Mexico State University who has declared for the draft.

    • 4everis2long

      This guy cannot move. I have seen him play and he is not gifted offensively or defensively.

      • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

        Doesn’t have to. Remember Mark Eaton? The ultimate rim protector! Come to think about it he is exactly the type of center the Jazz have historically drafted. Remember Kyrylo Fesenko and Pavel Podkolzin? Look for him to be on the Jazz summer league team.

        • 4everis2long

          Probably

        • Rick Moenster

          Nope, don’t really remember any of those guys.

  • Voqar

    I didn’t see AG play that much but it seems like he has trouble even shooting 1 footers and layups. Puts the “raw” in “raw potential” to the extreme. One would hope he could develop the ability to shoot but the fact that he can’t at all is kind of alarming.

  • Rick Moenster

    What a mistake this guy will be for whoever takes him.

  • DBreezy

    The key with Gordon to me is value. I don’t see him as being worthy of a high pick in the lottery, but there is a point later on where he’s absolutely worth a gamble. To me he’s the lottery pick most susceptible to a big drop between now and draft day. He’s got a lot of the same issues of raw bigs like DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, or JaVale McGee had coming out college, but he doesn’t have the kind of imposing frame those guys did for their positions. I hate the following comparison because this guy had an awful attitude and Gordon does not, but he kind of reminds me of Tyrus Thomas coming out of LSU.

    Unless his workouts are truly awful, I would have to imagine that his floor would be the Wolves at 13, especially considering that they may move Love. Then again, Flip could decide that being a franchise face off the bat would be too much for a project like that and pass as well-I’m sure he remembers Ndudi Ebi well. If they want Gordon, it seems like Denver might be a good target at 11 if he gets that far as they already have several bigs and might not want another raw one.

    • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

      The voice of reason finally makes an appearance! I recall you were very high on Deandre Jordan, especially when the Clippers only used a 2nd rd pick on him. 2008, the last draft that had an equal mix of players from all positions. As of today, Jordan is arguably the best center from that draft.

      Interesting observation from that draft, Suns desperately need a PF and this draft is simply short on PFs and centers. At the Suns picks this year, Anthony Randolph, JaVale McGee and Darrell Arthur were chosen in ’08. Serge Ibaka was chosen with the Suns pick by the Thunder at #24.

      Suns are stocked with picks in the wrong draft. .

      • DBreezy

        If one of those picks was in the top 8 or so, I think we’d all be excited by the stockpile of picks EBJM! Barring a strong trade, they’re just going to have to play out the string on this one, take the BPA and see what McD can do going forward.

        I was high on Jordan in that draft and it seems that Foreveris and I are at an official stalemate on that one as both R.Lo and DeAndre have turned out very well. I’ll still always wonder how being drafted by a better organization would have impacted Jordan’s development. Especially when he would have had to work with and go against Amar’e and Shaq everyday in practice. Not to mention guys like Nash and Hill as teammates instead of what he got in his Clipper formative years.