Denver Nuggets: Roles for newly-acquired forward Aaron Gordon

(Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

On a trade deadline day that largely resembled a pitbull fight, the Denver Nuggets front office aggressively targeted the Orlando Magic’s fire sale, eventually emerging from the multi-day melee with heads held high and Aaron Gordon in uniform.

The Nuggets have the man they believe to be the missing piece. But where do they go from here?

The squad ranks fifth in the Western Conference at 27-18, a step backward after last year’s conference finals run. Gordon’s integration must happen quickly because the Nuggets are counting on him to bolster a flimsy frontcourt defense and aid in a championship run.

Aaron Gordon’s new roles with the Denver Nuggets

Playing with Denver will be unlike anything Gordon has ever experienced, as he’s never shared the court with Nikola Jokic/Jamal Murray-caliber players in his career. The ceiling for both playoff success and easy baskets raises significantly for Gordon, as Denver’s scorers demand defensive attention and Jokic is among the NBA’s best facilitators.

The x-factor? There won’t be many Gordon-led isolation plays resembling his just-shoot-it-we’re-losing-anyway situations in Orlando. It will ultimately be a favorable shift, but an adjustment nonetheless that requires adaptation on his part.

Let’s break down Gordon’s roles with this new-look Nuggets team.


Gordon was acquired primarily to lock up opposing wing scorers, as he’ll utilize his physicality and athleticism to slow this small forward archetype that has given Denver nightmares.

This problem stretches further than many believe it to, however. The concept of slowing only LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard isn’t the extent of the issue, as recent games have shown less-than-stellar squads like the New Orleans Pelicans can also cause problems.

The Nuggets and Pelicans met twice last week, contests in which forwards Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson used their size advantage, strolled wherever they pleased, and helped the Pelicans outshoot the Nuggets 50-17 from the charity stripe.

Gordon hopes to plug these leaks, as positionally he’ll play Denver’s defensive small forward, guarding opponents’ top wings and serving as a perimeter-oriented combatant of size, athleticism and versatility. He’ll also effectively switch screens when needed.

Meanwhile, Michael Porter Jr., whose stopper skills are developing, will play the defensive power forward spot. The Nuggets have found recent success with Porter at the 4-slot, as he struggles against quick, athletic wings, but usually holds his own against this bigger, less skilled power forward archetype.

Gordon’s acquisition allows for continuity of these concepts, as the sweet-shooting Porter can continue developing defensively without being bludgeoned by the league’s best scoring wings.


Although Gordon’s best strength is his defense, he also boosts the Nuggets offensively, as the size, shooting and athleticism of the Porter-Gordon wing tandem present options galore for the slick-passing Jokic.

Porter (6’11”) shoots a scorching 44.1 percent from 3-point range, while Gordon (6’8” and built like a freight train) knocks down 37.5 percent. Each has the strength to hold off defenders near the hoop, as well as jaw-dropping athleticism to finish Jokic dimes with dunks over opposing rim protectors.

The default offense will likely feature Gordon cutting/finishing near the hoop, while Porter will shoot more 3-pointers. Yet, either player can exploit smaller wings in the post or beat larger defenders at the perimeter, leaving the option to switch spots at the drop of a hat depending on opposing defenses.

Jokic often facilitates cut-and-seal plays in the post, delivering pinpoint passes to attackers and capitalizing on a mismatch. Now he can run these sets with Gordon and Porter alike, as one will almost always possess a size advantage over his defender.

Gordon comes to the squad averaging 14.6 points per game in somewhat of a free-wheeling role. He’ll likely be the fourth scoring option in Denver, however, as Jokic and Murray are clear frontrunners, and Porter is averaging 20.2 points per game in March.

Ironically enough, Gordon could match his scoring average in Denver, simply by playing alongside Jokic and capitalizing on easy buckets and open shots within the offense. He’ll have less isolation freedom, but the numbers should remain favorable.

It’ll be an adjustment, but if done correctly will result in an athletic, sweet-shooting and well-rounded offense that places among the NBA’s elite.

Next. Players most likely to be traded this offseason. dark