This is the 23rd in a daily look at the top prospects in the NBA Draft: Their strengths, their weaknesses, and whether or not they're a fit for the Celtics. Today's prospect: Aaron Gordon
AARON GORDON, ARIZONA
6-foot-9, 220 pounds
HIS STORY: Aaron Gordon became a nationally recognized name before he set foot on Arizona’s campus. He’s part of the long heralded freshman class of 2014 and grew in fame because of his highlight-reel dunks, which people compared to those of Clippers star Blake Griffin. Those comparisons are not very accurate. Gordon is a very talented young player who was part of terrific team at Arizona, averaging 12.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Blake Griffin was the man at Oklahoma for his two seasons as a Sooner and swept all six national player of the year awards after his sophomore campaign. Not fair to pin that type of comparison or expectation on Gordon. As talented as he is, he’s a different player.
HIS STRENGTHS: Gordon is the most athletic of all the forwards in this draft. He has the third highest vertical, at 39”, of anyone his size in the history of the combine. To compliment that leaping ability, he has good length with a 6-foot-11 wingspan. He’s fantastic in transition and moves very fluidly on both sides of the floor. Playing power forward at Arizona, he handled the ball comfortably for a guy at that position. His 35.6 percent success rate from 3-point range was surprising, but he only attempted 45 3-pointers on the year. On the defensive end, he has good lateral foot speed and can guards well on the perimeter. Also, he is a very active rebounder with a high motor on the offensive and defensive glass.
HIS WEAKNESSES: He’s not efficient on the offensive end. While his 3-point percentage is decent for a big, his 27.5 percent from 2-point jump shots is horrific. But arguably his 42 percent from the free-throw line is more appalling. Besides his athleticism, he doesn’t do anything else really well and he’s stuck in between positions. He’s not big or physical enough to consistently play power forward right now. He’ll have to add muscle to his frame to sustain a career at the 4. While he can guard small forwards at the NBA level, he’s not scoring on any of them. He’s not able to create his own shot from the wing and we’ve already run through his deficiencies in making shots from the perimeter.
IS HE A FIT FOR THE CELTICS? He can stuff the stat sheet with his athleticism and energy he brings, but I don’t think he’s the kind of player that’s eventually going to get you 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds every night. His workouts will help GMs think he can be a solid wing player, as he displayed much improved shooting from the 3-point line. That’s in a workout setting, though; not sure if that can be replicated that at the NBA level. Some GMs think he’ll develop and they love his athleticism (could possibly go as high as No. 5), while others just think he’ll be an athletic undersized power forward and not a game-changing player. For the Celtics, I think he’s too much of a project right now. They need guys that can step in and effect games now, particularly on the wing, which I don’t think Gordon is or will develop into. That said, if Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle (both evaluations forthcoming) are off the board when the Celtics pick at No. 6, they might roll the dice on Gordon.
COMING ON THURSDAY: Doug McDermott of Creighton