Arizona forward Grant Jerrett made one of the most puzzling decisions when it came to entering the NBA Draft as he opted to be a one-and-done player, leaving the Wildcats after his freshman season to pursue a career in the NBA.
Jerrett averaged all of 5.2 points at Arizona, so while his decision may not result in a guaranteed contract at the NBA level, it may have actually been a blessing in disguise for the Wildcats. He didn’t want to battle for minutes with the likes of Aaron Gordon, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley, so instead of potentially having a disgruntled, unhappy top 30 recruit on the bench, Miller will have more minutes available to keep his talented front court happy.
Losing a player with Jerrett’s potential isn’t exactly ideal, but if it keeps everyone else happy, that’s a good thing.
But that theory only works when operating under the assumption that Aaron Gordon is a power forward, not a small forward. And based on a report from Jason Scheer of Wildcat Authority from over the weekend, it seems as if Gordon is hellbent on playing on the wing.
“As of right now I plan on playing on the wing full time,” Gordon told Scheer. “There will obviously be some times where I’ve got to go down in the post and go to work, but the plan is for me to play on the perimeter, which makes sense when you have players like Brandon and Kaleb in the low post. A lot of my training has been done with that in mind. I’ve always been able to dribble pretty well, so I’ve continued to work on that along with becoming a more consistent shooter.”
Gordon may one day become a three at the NBA level. He’s got the athleticism and mobility to do so, and if he continues to develop his perimeter skills, who knows where he ends up.
And at Arizona, his best position will be at the four.
Well, for starters, there aren’t going to be many power forwards across the country that will be able to matchup with Gordon. He’s 6-foot-8 and has enough athletic ability to have drawn comparisons to Blake Griffin. That alone will allow him to battle in the paint with anyone despite the fact that his frame still needs muscle added to it.
But Gordon also has enough perimeter skills that he’ll be able to play a stretch-four role. He can hit a three. He can beat a slower four-man off the dribble. He becomes a matchup nightmare at the college level, and he would still be able to play on the perimeter. The power forward is a changing position, and the players that are the best end up being shooting guards that are too big and too slow to be a shooting guard. Think Doug McDermott or Christian Watford or even Anthony Bennett — who, ironically enough, is a good comparison for the kind of impact that Gordon can have.
All of that comes before you factor in that Arizona also has a kid on their roster named Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who just so happens to be a prototypical small forward in the college game. Hollis-Jefferson is one of my favorite players in the Class of 2013. He plays hard, he’s very athletic, he can guard any position on the perimeter and he’s got the skills to play on the wing already. Putting him alongside Gordon at the forward spot with TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson in the back court and a rotation of Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley in the middle is scary.
But if Gordon plays the three, it clogs everything else up. With Angelo Chol transferring, it means that the Wildcats no longer have any quality front court depth. It forces Hollis-Jefferson to come off the bench or play out of position. It creates a logjam at the two, with Jordin Mayes, Elliot Pitts and Gabe York all fighting with Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson for minutes. It puts him out of position.
I wonder if Gordon watched Mike Moser play the three at all for UNLV last season. That didn’t go all that well, and Moser went from being a potential first round pick in 2012 to having to transfer out of the UNLV program for the 2013-2014 season.
If Gordon wants to be a small forward, he has every right to try and be a small forward. I hope that he puts in the work and turns himself into a small forward. A guy with that kind of athleticism could become a superstar in the NBA if he learns to defend the perimeter, shoot the ball and dribble.
But this Aaron Gordon playing small forward for this Arizona team is not the right decision, and Arizona will not be as good if that’s the case.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.