Despite some impressive performances lately, the inconsistency of Aaron Gordon has come to mirror the Orlando Magic as a team.
Wednesday night saw the Orlando Magic get hammered 120-101 in a home loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
While not every player had a bad game, forward Aaron Gordon in particular struggled to get going.
In 25 minutes of play, he posted some poor numbers (two points, four rebounds and two assists), shooting 1-of-5 from the field and missing on both his three-point attempts.
It left him with a plus/minus of minus-11, which somehow was the best mark of all of the Magic’s starters.
While this was a bad night at the office though, all hope is certainly not lost for Gordon. It’s also why his individual struggles with consistency have come to mirror the entire team so far this season.
At 15-19, there have been more bad nights than good for Orlando. But when their young players and veterans are in sync, which is happening more now, they look good.
This was the case in the Magic’s most recent win, against the Memphis Grizzlies, and it’s no coincidence that Gordon had a big night himself in that victory.
He finished with 30 points (on 11-of-15 shooting), played a team-high 34 minutes (averaging 26 this season) and made all four of his long-range attempts.
What was even more encouraging however was the fact Gordon didn’t fall in love with his outside shot going in, and still attacked the paint (all video via 3ball).
Looking at that play, it’s clear Gordon should have probably kicked the ball out to a teammate. After all, he is being covered by three men and D.J. Augustin is wide open.
It’s also why he finished the game with only a single assist, right in line with the 1.6 he’s averaging for the season.
What makes that number even worse is that it currently ties his career high as well, and given his move to the small forward position, it’s a number that has got to improve.
But looking more at the positives from that game, and Gordon was in attack mode early and he took over the offense.
This is something we haven’t seen him do too often, and it was refreshing to see a younger player finally grab some of the responsibility on this team.
Where the worry, and inconsistency, returns is the fact that Gordon has gone to that low-percentage look a couple of times as of late and it hasn’t always been successful.
Here he tries that same move against the Lakers a couple of nights earlier, when the better option would have been once again to kick the ball out for an open three.
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In that one play we can see why the Magic are where they are right now. Sometimes tough shots like that go in, sometimes they do not.
On some nights young guys, such as Gordon, are in a groove, but on the next night, they go missing.
While it was impressive that Gordon hung 30 on the Grizzlies, who currently have the best defensive rating in the league (.998), he couldn’t carry that over against the Hornets.
What then does Gordon have to do in order to find more consistency, while also being a more positive and engaged influence for his team?
After all, he’s averaging a career-high in points (10.6), and his drop in rebounding numbers (6.5 last season to 4.2) can be attributed to not playing the 4 position as much anymore.
He’s become a better three-point shooter (32.7 percent) and is attempting just over three long-range efforts a night.
His game is diversifying, but it is also moving away from what he is best at, being a pain around the paint and using his superb hops to out-jump opponents.
Of those 30 points scored against the Grizzlies, four came in the paint (one lay-up, one sweet alley-oop with Elfrid Payton).
The jump shots were falling for the most part, but they won’t always. It looks like the time is now to start trusting in his passing ability.
This could be the key to opening up the floor for him even more, and involving his teammates more as well.
Gordon has become a much better ball handler and he is now confident dribbling the ball into traffic.
He no longer needs to wait for the guards to set him up, he is able to at least set in motion the creation of his own shot, even if he doesn’t go through with it.
A look back at recent Magic wins and losses clearly shows tons of possessions where Gordon should have at least considered passing to a teammate.
Then again, with head coach Frank Vogel putting a lot of trust in him, as well as his teammates often going cold themselves, it’s understandable he would try and do a lot of the work himself.
One interesting kink to watch out for in Gordon’s development is the current loss of Evan Fournier to injury.
Fournier has been one of the few bright spots for the Magic so far this season (team high 17.8 points per game).
When he went down, an opportunity arose for Gordon to become more of a focal point on the offensive end.
Against the Grizzlies he did just that, but in that loss to the Hornets, it was back to being unsure of his role offensively.
With Fournier gone, there may not be as much space on the floor, but Gordon has the ability to create that space for teammates now.
This is especially true when you consider opponents have to account for his outside jump shot, something that was never really true before.
Only he hasn’t adequately gotten the hang of using the respect from his defender he now commands to feed the ball to teammates.
It’s that inconsistency which is stopping Aaron Gordon from pushing on to the next level, because he has the tools at his disposal.
It is that same inability to string performances together that has the Orlando Magic where they are too, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon.