Arizona Wildcats freshman big man Aaaron Gordon has decided to enter the 2014 NBA Draft. He had reportedly been mulling over the decision since Arizona’s heartbreaking 64-63 loss to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. He averaged 13.6 ppg and 9.2 rpg in five tournament games and lead the Wildcats to the round of 8, but many believe the 6-9 forward could have benefitted from another year of seasoning.
Gordon’s numbers on the season, 16.2 points and 8 boards per game, while shooting 49.5 percent from the field, were hardly staggering. But when combined with an NBA-ready 225 pound frame, his upside makes him a legitimate potential top ten pick. According to NBA Draft analysis, Gordon is a work in progress that shows a lot of potential, but needs a good amount of polishing on the offensive side, in particular. He shot a deficient 43.5 percent from the free throw line for the season and struggled to find the basket outside of the paint. This in spite of shooting 30.8 percent from outside the arc, a respectable clip for any big man from that distance.
Another concern for scouts is Gordon sort of sitting in between positions. He has neither the game nor the mentality of either an NBA center or forward. While he has great explosiveness and athleticism, he lacks the perimeter skills and the foot speed of a prototypical forward. Gordon’s footwork, scouts say, is also in need of improvement. His inability to get his feet set properly on a consistent basis will hinder his ability to create shots at the next level. Among his other weaknesses, according to observers, is a lack of NBA level toughness that he has not yet had to exert. He did not shy away from contact at Arizona, but the NBA paint is a far more physical place than he is accustomed to.
Gordon’s strengths center around his length and athleticism. Coming out of high school in California, he was labeled as having above average ball-handling skills for not being the most skilled of players. His basketball I.Q. has also impressed. He is said to be an extremely unselfish player who reads the floor well and makes good decisions.
Gordon led Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose, Calif. to consecutive state titles in 2011 and 2012, averaging 21.6 points per game, a school-record 15.7 rebounds per game and 3.3 blocks per game as a senior. He was a two-time Mr. Basketball in the state of California and was ranked as the number three overall player in his class by Rivals.com. ESPN rated Gordon as the number four overall prospect and number two power forward in his class. He was named most valuable player of the 2013 McDonald’s All-American game after finishing with 24 points, 8 rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes on the court. In his one and only season with Arizona, Gordon scored in double-figures in all but six games and posted nine double-doubles. In big regular season wins against Duke, San Diego State, Michigan, UCLA and Oregon, he averaged 15.2 ppg and 9.4 rebounds.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat