Thursday, January 17, 2013
Biancardi’s Breakdown: Aaron Gordon
By Paul Biancardi
Aaron Gordon (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty) is the No. 1 player on the West Coast, the nation’s No. 2 power forward and the No. 7 overall prospect in the ESPN 100.
And what makes him one of the most coveted uncommitted recruits in the country -- he’s down to Washington, Arizona and Kentucky -- is that he can dominate opponents with both his physical ability and his versatility. One thing is for sure: You won’t outwork this 6-foot-8, 210-pound athletic marvel, who can influence the outcome of any game.
You can watch Gordon in action Monday at noon ET on ESPNU when his Archbishop Mitty squad takes on No. 3 Lone Peak (Utah) at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. But to give you an idea of what to expect and what makes him so good, let’s break down the major parts of Gordon’s game.
Gordon makes scoring plays and defensive plays with his strong frame, speed, length and bounce, along with a quick and strong second jump. Keep your eyes on his fluid footwork -- whether it’s a scoring move or defending the dribble -- as he is graceful and quick and his lateral speed allows him to guard multiple positions.
A common sequence for Gordon is to see him high above the rim on offense with a one-handed dunk from an alley-oop pass or offensive rebound. Then on the next play he will utilize his speed and explosiveness to chase down an opponent’s potential breakaway score with a block.
It’s one thing to use athletic ability to rebound the ball, as Gordon possesses length, explosiveness and enormous hands to snatch the ball away from everyone. More importantly, though, he displays a relentless sprit to pursue every shot as if it will be a miss. Combine that with excellent anticipation and you have a double-figure rebounder. Gordon is also persistent on both backboards to gain as many extra possessions as possible for his team.
Gordon is an everyday player, not a “feel like it” player, and that’s usually the separation point between good and great. A lot of players say they play the game with passion -- Gordon does it. You will see him chase down loose balls, compete in traffic for rebounds, run the floor and work to defend.
“It’s something I can control every time I step out on the floor, so I try and give my best,” Gordon said. He brings energy to the game and gives off energy to his teammates. Playing hard all the time is never a problem for the younger brother of former New Mexico standout Drew Gordon.
ESPN 100 No. 7 prospect Aaron Gordon has a special combination of athletic ability, versatility and motor.
Without question he possesses point forward type of ability. When it comes to scoring, Gordon is comfortable and certain he will do so from anywhere inside the arc. When you evaluate his game, it’s evident he is a tremendous finisher on the break or in traffic. When defended by bigger players, he easily drives past them. And when defended by similar size or smaller opponents, he knows how to punish them inside the paint. He is too big and powerful for guards and too swift and elusive for big men.
A great example of his versatility is that you can put him in a ball-screen situation and he can either be the screener or handle the ball attacking off the dribble. He possesses an effective post-up game in the paint as he assesses the floor before he attacks when a quick spin move is not warranted. And rarely are his passing abilities mentioned, but he can find the open man and is underrated in this department.
Gordon is a nightmare on defense as well with his ability to guard perimeter players and make life difficult by not allowing drives thanks to his athleticism. He can also close out and contest shots with his agility and length.
Gordon’s success is tied to his diligent approach, as he is serious about the game and winning. After breaking a bone in his foot early this past summer, he came back with a vengeance at the Nike Peach Jam and led the Oakland Soldiers to the Nike EYBL championship. He went for a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds in the title game win over CIA Bounce and Andrew Wiggins. Gordon is also looking to lead Archbishop Mitty to its third consecutive state title this season.
Room to Grow
Every player has holes to fill in his game, and first and foremost Gordon needs a consistent jumper at and beyond the 3-point arc. He now owns a solid 15- to 17-foot jumper, but he needs to expand his range over the summer to the point where he can make open 3s. This will force defenders to close out hard, and he then can attack the closeout with a hard drive.
Next in his evolution would be to use a jab step from the triple-threat position and to learn how to create space for himself with a dribble move to shake defenders and not just rely on his power.