Orlando Magic: Improvements Aaron Gordon Needs to Make for Next Season

The Orlando Magic dished out a four-year, $76 million deal to Aaron Gordon this summer. How can the 22-year-old forward continue his growth next season?

Aaron Gordon, NBA, Orlando Magic
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The Orlando Magic have built a strong stable of athletic forwards. Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and Mohamed Bamba make up a trio of supremely athletic frontcourt players for the Magic. Gordon, along with his newly minted four-year deal, will be under the most pressure to perform in the 2018-19 season.

The former Arizona standout has always shown flashes of his NBA potential. With four years of experience under his belt, Gordon appears to be ready to take the next step as a player. In order to reach his full potential, the California native will have to modify a few aspects of his game.

Find His Range

Last season proved to be a considerable stepping stone for Gordon’s outside shooting. For the first time in his career, he managed to cross the 30 percent threshold as a three-point shooter. Shooting 33.6 percent from beyond the arc is far from elite, but his performance last year managed to raise his career average to 30.9 percent.

Here is a look at Gordon’s Heat Map from the 2017-18 season:

NBAsavant.com

Sample sizes should definitely be considered, but it isn’t surprising to see that Gordon is a much better three-point shooter from the corners. One potential advantage of having Gordon operate at small forward is the possibility of him getting more looks from the corner this season. If the Magic elect to utilize a duo of Isaac and Bamba in the post, Gordon’s minutes at small forward will certainly increase.

Even a slight bump in three-point attempts from the edges could raise Gordon’s shooting percentages to a more respectable level. Another potential benefit from increased efficiency from outside is the driving lanes it will open. Defenders will be left behind when Gordon becomes a true outside threat, as opponents will be forced to respect his three-point shooting ability. The 22-year-old forward will open up the entire Orlando offense if he is able to space the floor and free himself on baseline cuts.

Abandon the Midrange

The shot chart above shows that Gordon is an improving outside shooter and a solid finisher at the rim. In order for Gordon to make the leap as an offensive force, he must eliminate the shots in between. Due largely to his shot selection, the former Wildcat finished last year with a pedestrian effective field goal percentage of 50.

Once again, let’s look at a chart provided by NBAsavant.com. This pie chart represents Gordon’s shot selection from last year.

NBAsavant.com

Gordon will become a more efficient scorer if he abandons his midrange and non-restricted-area attempts in the lane. This won’t be an easy task for him, though, as Gordon must keep his defender honest. There is a fine line between playing to your strengths and becoming predictable.

Just like Gordon’s three-point shooting, it will only take slight modifications for him to raise his percentages to respectable levels.

Be the Operator

Hedo Turkoglu elevated the Magic to championship contenders when he masterfully operated as a pick-and-roll ball handler. Gordon would accelerate Orlando’s growth arc by learning to handle the ball in the pick and roll. Bamba and Isaac are both lengthy roll men for him to hit with passes in the paint. Along with feeding the big fellas, having Gordon handle the ball would mitigate the Magic’s lack of depth at point guard.

This would definitely be a leap for Gordon, but the reward would be massive. The 22-year-old forward averaged 2.1 assists per game last season – a career high. Unfortunately, he also averaged a career-high 1.8 turnovers per game. This won’t be an overnight process for Gordon, but it might be the best way for him to share the court with Isaac and Bamba.

Don’t Forget How You Got Here

Becoming a better ball handler and shooter will definitely make Gordon a more dangerous player on the offensive end. But those additions shouldn’t come at the expense of the former Wildcat’s strengths. Athleticism, rebounding, and finishing at the rim are what earned Gordon his new four-year contract. Remaining an above average threat in those areas should remain the foundation for his future as an NBA player.

Stats and tables courtesy of NBAsavant.com and Basketball-Reference.