It’s NBA basketball in July aka time to overreact to Summer League performances! Every year we see the same thing…a returning second or third year veteran dominates fringe NBA talents and fresh out of college rookies, leading to knee jerk reactions from talent evaluators.
Phrases such as, “I told you he would be good once he started being more aggressive.”
“X is finally showcasing that raw talent that made him a high lottery pick.”
Blah, blah, blah! The old adage is definitely true, Summer League does not normally show you who can play in the league, it shows you who can’t. So instead of checking the stats of your favorite young player, look at how they are impacting games and if they made any drastic improvements in terms of feel for the game, comfortability and confidence.
All that said, Aaron Gordon has been outstanding so far for Orlando Blue (the Magic have two SL teams, Orlando Blue & Orlando White so the Orlando SL would have an even number of squads) and looks like he is ready to contribute for the Magic as soon as next season.
A foot injury sidelined Gordon for much of 2014-15, so his growth was stunted by rehabbing and inconsistent playing time once he returned.
You can tell Gordon took his offseason approach very seriously. Not only does he look a bit bulked up, he is checking off pretty much every box you wish to see from returning “vets” in the SL.
1. Does he look comfortable on the floor? Check. Gordon is making the right reads on offense, has stopped gambling for steals on defense and is under control at all times.
2. Has he stopped forcing the issue? Check. A freak athlete, Gordon relied way too much on his physical tools in Year 1. Nowadays, he is confident taking, and making, big shots and does not play at 100 mph.
3. Did he add anything of note to his game? Check. AG is scoring in transition, off the bounce, in the paint and is more relentless than ever on the glass. He has a knack for doing the dirty work and provides incredible intangibles (hustle plays, deflections, fast break conversions) all across the board.
Once again, it’s “only Summer League” but the way he’s playing is extremely encouraging. Gordon is converting jumpers off the dribble (step back & escape dribble pull-ups), knocking down open threes and creating plays for teammates after breaking down defenders.
With new head coach Scott Skiles into the fray, Gordon will get ample time to further display his newfound confidence and abilities. Heading into the season, Gordon needs to continue to work on his spot up shooting because he won’t have as many opportunities to create with Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton on the court.
He probably has the highest ceiling out of Orlando’s young core; Gordon’s play this season will determine how far the Magic can go. His goal: a playoff berth.
Here’s a taste of what’s in store for the future:
Even though it’s “only Summer League,” Gordon is starting to scratch the surface of his immense potential. Forget the stats, he passes the eye test…the only real measure of talent for basketball in July!