Arizona basketball: Aaron Gordon's 2014 NBA Draft upside

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

While we can easily find holes to Aaron Gordon's game, there are plenty of reasons why he could still go as a high lottery selection.

NBA Draft analysts have considered Arizona forward Aaron Gordon a top-10 pick for some time now. While we've been quick to question his immediate readiness at the next level, it's not to say those analysts are wrong.

Gordon's intangibles in terms of his character, work ethic and maturity are untouchable. His defense has been great.

"There's a lot of times he'll apologize after a game because he had single-digit rebounds. He's sincere about it." -Sean Miller


Offensively, Gordon has displayed the ability to handle the ball often and pass with great effectiveness, but when it comes down to his own scoring, there's a lot to be desired. Nine of his 24 games played has seen him shoot below 40 percent, but then again, he's also had seven games shooting 60 percent or better. He's averaging 47 percent shooting on 10.1 attempts per game.

This week on the Pac-12 teleconference call, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said the lack of a jump shot shouldn't be an issue. He joked that Gordon was far ahead of his own development as a big man entering the NBA, and Krystkowiak went on the play for more than 10 years in the league.

"Once you move on to that next level and you've got the body that Aaron has and the motor and kind of the natural feel for the game, all of a sudden when he's not going to class, he's going to be put himself in the position where he can really eat, sleep and drink basketball," Krystkowiak said, referring the time Gordon will have to work on his jumper. "I wasn't even close to the level that he's at. Mike Montgomery (Krystkowiak's coach at Montana), why in the world would he want me shooting?

"I don't think there's any reason at all his game won't develop," the other Coach K added. "When that shot gets established ... over time he'll be just fine."

Obviously, the ups and downs come because Gordon also lacks post moves, a floater and pretty much any basic offensive move.

He won't be able to finish at the rim in the NBA, where his athleticism advantage will be negligible, and to get there, he'll have to be able to blow by defenders, something that's hard to do if they're stepping off Gordon on the perimeter. Still, that doesn't mean he should fall in the lottery -- it's also important to consider that while there's depth in talent in the 2014 draft, there's also limits to most of those talents.

Sean Miller will be first to say that Gordon's not worried about his offense at this point. It's hard, after all, to put in the time on the offensive side of the ball when Gordon's role is to lock down on defense.

"Because he knows the type of player that he is, he doesn't always judge himself by points per game or shot attempts," Miller said this week. "There's a lot of times he'll apologize after a game because he had single-digit rebounds. He's sincere about it."

This week on Tucson radio, ESPN Tucson's Zach Clark caught up with Draft Express' Mike Schmitz, who discussed the NBA draft prospects of a few current Wildcats, including Gordon's (4:00 mark).

"He gives you so many things that coaches love," Schmitz said. "I think he might be the most versatile defenders in the country. His feet as so quick. He works really hard to contest shots, he covers so much ground. He's just a smart, intelligent kid. Defensively, he'll be able to get on the floor right away."

Miller said he's never had such a young player be so locked in and capable on the defensive end. While it's hard to argue that an NBA should draft a lockdown defender so high in such a loaded draft, the thought is Gordon's offensive skillset has only scratched the surface.

"He guards multiple players each game," Miller said. "In Aaron's case, he plays the low post, against a post player, and then he turns around and guards perimeter players. I can say that I don't think any that I've coached have been successful as a freshman doing that."

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