Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson went through draft combine interviews and measurements on Thursday, and while comments from pundits like Doug Gottlieb and Andy Glockner riled up the "hater" finger-pointing, the fact of the matter is both players have a lot to prove.
Gordon is still being labeled as an overrated ball handler, which since Day 1 was rarely an issue for him at Arizona. It's different in the NBA, for sure, but the fact of the matter is the Blake Griffin comparison fits in this regard. Like Griffin, it may take Gordon several years to be leading a fastbreak, but the potential there is why he's a top-10 projected pick. Gordon's jumper has every reason to be scrutinized, as was his offensive aggressiveness once defenders gave him 10 feet of airspace.
For Johnson, the combine will be a large benefit despite how unnecessary it might be for so many others. He might be a combo guard, but he has a legitimate chance of breaking the combine's vertical record and making some GMs turn their heads. Johnson went through shooting drills on Thursday and looks toward Friday, where his vertical jump, among other things, will be tested.
Here's what we learned on Thursday.
- Draft Express' Mike Schmitz reports that Gordon's measured out very well. He is 6'7.5 without shoes, has gained weight at 221 pounds and has a 6'11.75 wingspan, which matches him comparatively to Paul George of the Indiana Pacers. The numbers could truly make Gordon a combo forward. His often cited comparison, Blake Griffin, measured an inch taller and 27 pounds heavier when he entered the draft. They are different players, but the athleticism and playmaking abilities will forever tie them together.
- Gordon won't participate in any drills, as is the procedure for lottery prospects, but he said he's completely "deconstructed" his jumper.
- Nick Johnson is doing the right thing. According to the Arizona Daily Star's Bruce Pascoe, he's calling himself a point guard. At 6'1.5 and 198 pounds, that makes sense. Johnson may not be a true point guard, but he did act as facilitator, if not Arizona's backup through three seasons. He showed that he can run an offense, but it's hard to be a starter in the NBA without a better grasp of pick-and-roll play. Johnson had some interesting shooting results, as the Arizona Republic's Doug Haller reports. He was fine from college range and decent enough from NBA range but struggled to hit NBA corner threes.
- Gordon told Pascoe about a funny question the Timberwolves asked him. That -- and more -- live from Chicago can be read here.
- Johnson on Friday will be able to potentially break the combine record in the vertical test. Kenny Gregory holds the combine record of 45.5 inches on a vertical, while former Memphis leaper D.J. Stephens holds the 46-inch record for the Draft Express database. Johnson measured a 47-inch vertical last summer at Arizona.
UA's Aaron Gordon said his combine measurement in shoes was near 6-9 but they made it 6-8 3/4. "Can't catch a break." pic.twitter.com/vyzBmwbEC8
— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) May 15, 2014
Aaron Gordon said he deconstructed his shot and changed it. "I have blisters on my fingers just from shooting so much."
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) May 15, 2014