As it currently stands, the Los Angeles Lakers might be on the outside looking in on one of the top five picks for the 2014 NBA Draft. If this scenario comes to fruition, they might be in a situation to draft either Aaron Gordon of Arizona or Noah Vonleh of Indiana to shore up their front-line. Let me start by prefacing that both of these players are extremely young and raw; it will take both at least a few years to hone their game to potentially be a star at the next level.
I believe Gordon will be the better player; he has a significant athletic advantage over Vonleh and has a much better feel for the game. The big problem with Vonleh is the lack of lift inside the paint. This is huge because the difference in scoring and altering shots at the next level are those tiny inches. Gordon has a much more polished floor game, consistently finding open men and not forcing shots. Dare I say, making some Luke Walton-type of interior passes at times.
Adding on, Gordon is a huge part of a winning team while Vonleh’s Hoosiers will not be in the NCAA tournament, which counts for a lot when evaluating prospects in my book. The one big risk in drafting Gordon is his abysmal free-throw shooting (44 percent), however, if the Lakers select him, he would be playing with Kobe Bryant for two years. As a result, he won’t get many touches at the end of the game (if he’s even in at all), thus the poor free-throw shooting shouldn’t adversely affect the game. He should have a few years to improve on that with no real pressure.
Vonleh is much better at the charity stripe (71 percent) and has a much better stroke from the outside. However, he will not be confused with Chris Bosh at this point. I’m not worried about Gordon having to shoot from the perimeter as he translates to power forward at the next level. His frame is going to fill out giving him the bulk to finish in the paint, thus the lack of outside shooting from Gordon shouldn’t be a negative factor either.
Ultimately, most of Gordon’s weaknesses can be corrected with relative ease except the free-throw problem which is going to be a process. For example, Gordon has a habit of standing straight up when defending or boxing out, putting himself at a disadvantage. This is a minor adjustment to be made.
On the other hand, I have some real reservations about Vonleh’s thought process on the court; some of the mistakes he makes are momentum shifters and head scratchers, and one of the reasons Indiana has struggled so much. Both being around the same age, Gordon is far more along in being ready to flourish as part of a professional team. In the end, hopefully Los Angeles can win the lottery and we won’t even have to worry about this debate.