On a bigger market team with a greater fanbase, there’s little doubt that Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon would have garnered greater popularity in All-Star voting to date. Despite his excellent form this season, the 27-year-old fails to feature in the top ten frontcourt players after the second return of fan voting.
But Gordon isn’t the only high lottery pick to revolutionize his career and reputation in recent times. From underwhelming talent on a battling team to key contributor on a championship contender, the similarities between Gordon and another Western Conference forward continue to align.
Aaron Gordon’s career arc is beginning to mirror that of Andrew Wiggins, who punctuated his turnaround with an All-Star appearance and championship last season.
Andrew Wiggins was taken with the first overall pick in 2014, while Gordon went three selections later at number four. The athleticism of both players was eye-popping, but their capacity to harness that into winning basketball was always a question mark. Having each made just one postseason appearance in their first seven seasons, Gordon and Wiggins were your typical “empty numbers on a bad team” kind of players.
It’s amazing what a solid organization and superstar teammate can do for a player, though. After joining the Warriors during the 2019–20 season, the last three years have now represented the most efficient part of Wiggins’ career. Without the pressure of being the first or second option offensively, he can now go about prioritizing an off-ball role and the defensive side of the ball.
That description can now be attributed to Gordon as well as Wiggins. After being dealt to the Denver Nuggets, the former Arizona product has proven to be a steady presence for Mike Malone, particularly given the injury uncertainty of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
With the Nuggets as the first seed in the West and Gordon putting up career-high numbers, his name has rightfully joined the All-Star discussion. The 27-year-old is averaging 16.5 points per game on an insane 59% shooting, including a much-improved 37.6% from three-point range. He’s also adding 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists, along with taking responsibility for the opposition’s best wings on a nightly basis.
The resurgence of Wiggins and Gordon also nods to the legacies of Stephen Curry and Nikola Jokic. Taking undesirable players on poor-value contracts and turning them into crucial players who buy into a lesser role is a phenomenal ode to their greatness. That’s what ultimately differentiates them from other superstars who are predicated on their own numbers.
The Nuggets will be hoping Gordon’s career continues to mirror that of Wiggins’. The Canadian was arguably the second-best player in last year’s NBA Finals, and Gordon might have to produce a similar output to help bring an elusive championship to Denver.