Ryen Russillo talked with NBA types -- "a general manager and two directors of college scouting for NBA teams" -- about Aaron Gordon (with an apology for excerpting so much but this is so damn good):
Scout 1: I think he’s Shawn Marion.
Here’s why I like Gordon, and it’s rare for me (my teams have always been about shooting; you need it to win). It’s simple: Gordon impacts the game without being a shooter. It’s hard to do that. He knows 100 percent what he is. Jabari Parker will take a million bad shots; Gordon already knows he can’t take them.
In the NBA he will guard 1 through 4. He rebounds, disrupts the glass. Not as great with defensive rebounds as he is on the offensive glass. He can dribble and pass. On defense, he gives you deflections. He dives on the floor, makes winning plays. He only cares about winning. He can switch everywhere on defense; there is a lot of value in that.
If you get him fifth or sixth, that’s really good. For me to be this complimentary to a kid that isn’t a shooter is rare. He just needs to develop as a representative shooter over time, to at least be a guy you have to put a defender on. I hear he can’t make 3s — who the fuck cares? Sixteen-footer, 33 percent from 3, five years from now? That’s all you’ll need.
Scout 2: “He’s Blake Griffin … blah blah … ”
Not even close. Thankfully, that comparison is over. Blake was almost 250 pounds when he came in. Blake scored a ton of points in college, like a real scorer. This kid doesn’t. Not sure if he ever is an offensive threat.
Most skewed perspective coming in. He’s an undersized 4 but plays like a 3. He’s like Shawn Marion or Andrei Kirilenko — a power forward that’s a small forward, depending on the lineup.
Great motor. Great kid. Great teammate. He’s the only guy, along with Embiid and Wiggins, where the attraction is defense first.
Owners drafting high want offense. Think about draft night — “Hey, we drafted a really versatile defensive specialist.” How’s that going to go over?
He can’t guard the guys like Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake. But he can guard the stretch 4s and definitely small forwards.
Scout 3: He’s one of the two best athletes in the draft. His biggest attribute is his defense. An underrated skill is his passing. He can handle out on the break and he’s a north-south guy. Now, I’m not saying he’s going to break you down off the dribble. And you aren’t going to run isolation for him, at least not now, not that anyone would ask him to anyway. He’s a two-dribble player that will get to the rim.
Offensively, his game is he’s going to get fouled, he’s an attacker. But he has to start making his free throws. Today it’s a joke. He shot 3s in college. He thought it was part of his game. It isn’t.
There are two things you usually get better at in our league: shooting and getting stronger. I think he will do both. He’s a worker, so I think he gets better. But his ceiling is probably [as] an adequate shooter.
What position does he play in the NBA? The body of a 3, the game of a 4. Does he know who he is? He was billed as an SF, and he just isn’t right now.
The position thing really concerns me. He’ll guard 3s — that means chasing guys through screens. But you can’t play him defensively against the bigger guys. They are going to torture him in the paint.
Russillo: The best way I can describe Gordon is that if you decide that you don’t like him before you evaluate him, you won’t. If you want to be positive and talk yourself into him, you will.
Everybody is supposed to be a scorer when they are drafted this high. He wasn’t in college, so why is he going to be one in the NBA? Not everyone on the floor has to be able to shoot. In theory, it’d be great if all five guys could score, like we see with some lineups, like when Portland goes small. But you also need those complementary guys who do other things. That is who Gordon is. He’ll do all that stuff — defend, grab a board, lead a break, and just annoy the hell out of you, all combined with elite athleticism.
He is constantly moving in the half court, sets a lot of screens, and doesn’t need the ball. When I think back on other athletes who didn’t work out, a guy like Tyrus Thomas, it is usually about fighting who you are as a player. Thomas was supposed to score; he couldn’t do it well enough to last. Gordon won’t have any plays run for him, and that’s a good thing.