Yesterday, I penned a fairly lengthy post on Aaron Gordon and why I think that it would be dumb for Arizona to play him at the three next season.
The cliff notes version?
Gordon is a prototype college four-man, he doesn’t yet have the skills to be a perimeter player, and Arizona’s rotation works oh-so-much more smoothly with him up front instead of on the wing.
But here’s where this thing gets tricky: Aaron Gordon is probably not going to be a power forward in the NBA. He’s not Chris Bosh. He’s not Tim Duncan. He’s not David West or Kevin Love, or at least he doesn’t want to be. He quite clearly wants to play on the wing. He wants to be the next Paul George, and, frankly, if he puts in the work on his jumper and his handle, I think that he’s athletically gifted enough to make that a reality.
The other thing about Gordon is that he’s one of those atypical prospects that has no need to play college basketball. He’s not a scholarship athlete looking to produce enough to earn his way into the NBA Draft. He’s a pro prospect being forced to spend a year on campus. He’s not a college player trying to go to the league one day. He’s an NBA player that has to do a year in Tucson before he can cash in on his ability.
And therein lies the problem.
It would be in Gordon’s best interest to spend the year playing on the perimeter, bettering his ball-handling and his shooting touch. But it would be in Arizona’s best interest to have Gordon spend the season as a power forward, helping to rebound and protect while creating matchup problem on the offensive end of the floor.
Remember a couple of years ago when Derrick Williams was still at Arizona? He was forced to play in the paint despite the fact that, at the NBA level, he’s more of a combo-forward. That doesn’t mean that Williams was happy about it, but it did mean that he put together an incredibly efficient, all-american season, got within a missed-Jamelle Horne three of the Final Four and ended up getting picked second in the 2011 draft.
That may end up being the role that Gordon has to play next season.
But that is probably not the best role for Gordon to play in regards to his individual development. It is, however, a position that he has been because of the NBA’s one-and-done rule.
So what do you do if you’re Sean Miller? It would behoove you to keep arguably your most talented player happy by playing him where he wants to play, but if doing so would be a detriment to your team, is it a move worth making?
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com had a great line in a column this week. “But you want to know the best way to make the NBA? Be awesome.”
The best way for Gordon to be awesome would be to accept a role as a college four-man. He’ll be a star in that spot, I truly believe it. I don’t think it’s crazy to say that he would have a shot at being the Pac-12 Player of the Year — someone capable of averaging 16 points, nine boards and 2.5 blocks — doing so. Accepting that role turned Derrick Williams, who wasn’t 1/10th the prospect that Gordon is coming out of high school, into a No. 2 pick and a starter in the NBA that averaged 12.0 points this season.
It also doesn’t mean that Gordon can’t develop his perimeter skills. He can work with the guards instead of the posts in practice. He can show up early and do ball-handling work on his own. He can make 500 jumpers a day after practice is over. Guarding an opponent’s power forward on 35 nights over the course of the next 13 months isn’t going to drastically change Gordon’s career-path or development.
But it’s one of the downfalls of the one-and-done rule.
A kid that probably shouldn’t be in college is being forced to either spend a year playing a position that he won’t play as a professional, or hurt his team by focusing on what is best for his career.
It’s a tough position to put an 18-year old in.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.