With only four players on the roster older than 30 for the 2014-15 season, there’s a new era beginning in Orlando.
Gone are the days of Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis, three of the top veterans from last year’s squad that finished 23-59. Victor Oladipo, the second overall pick in the 2013 draft, finished in the top three for Rookie of the Year and figures to be a cog in the franchise for years to come.
General manager Rob Hennigan is hoping the Magic’s two first-round draft picks this year, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, are the eventual replacement’s for Nelson and Davis.
It’s Gordon, though, who has the highest ceiling of all three players and has drawn comparisons to Blake Griffin coming out of Oklahoma.
The Magic’s top pick in the draft won’t have many expectations this season when it comes to playing time though, as the focus will be on figuring out what position is best for him at NBA level. The one thing Hennigan talked about after the draft is that he knows Gordon is a high character player and a hard worker who can defend four positions on the floor as one of the most versatile defender in this entire draft class.
In the Orlando Summer League, he missed all 10 of his 3-point attempts and only shot 35 percent from the field. Because he lacks a consistent jumper, he’s better suited as an all-around, face up power forward, especially with his ball handling skills and ability to pass.
Like Griffin was coming out of Oklahoma, Gordon is a world class athlete. Griffin dominated at the college level based on athleticism alone without a definitive post game.
His first few years in the league, he was known more for his highlight dunks than being an all-around, back to the basket power forward. It was just last season when he became an MVP candidate because of his improved ability to operate from the low post with consistent go-to moves and knock down more than 70 percent of his free throws.
The difference is Griffin has never been known for his defense, at all – Gordon can already defend either forward position. Defensively, he’ll be able to help the Magic from day one combined with Oladipo and Payton.
Offensively, how fast he develops from that tweener stage will prove his worth at the NBA level.
Is he the next Blake Griffin or Tyrus Thomas, the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft who was blessed with elite athletic ability but failed to make it in the league?
Easiest way to view Gordon’s potential, as one Eastern Conference executive summed it up at the Orlando Summer League: “Once he figures out what he’s doing out there, Gordon has a chance to be a hell of a player in this league.”