Aaron Gordon

Aaron Gordon is an example of one of the downfalls of the one-and-done rule


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.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.