Somewhat lost in the hoopla over Nerlens Noel making his NBA Summer League debut for the Philadelphia 76ers in a game against the Orlando Magic (and boy, was it impressive), was the fact that another highly-touted prospect, Magic forward Aaron Gordon also kicked off professional career in the game. Gordon, the 6-foot-9, 220 pound athlete from Arizona who boasts a 7-foot wingspan, was always considered a project player given his youth, inexperience and lack of shooting touch. After taking the court in the Orlando Summer League earlier today, those beliefs were confirmed in short order.
Though his athletic ability was apparent at several junctures throughout the contest, his overall impact on the outcome of the game was marginal at best. If anything, his lows spoke more loudly than the few highlights he could muster. As was discussed ad nauseum leading up to the draft, that jump shot is cringe-worthy. Whether or not it’s “broken” is a point of debate for fans, but it’s definitely not something that is pleasing to the eye. On multiple attempts, some of which should be extremely makeable shots for a player of Gordon’s size shooting over smaller defenders, Gordon failed to draw iron or anything at all. You also have to question the decision making of a player who has demonstrated such a lack of touch when he tries a step-back three-pointer during crunch time.
He was able to grab some rebounds for the Magic, get his hands on the basketball defensively and his court vision was on display in the first half when he found he found Victor Oladipo through traffic for a triple, but he seemed to be playing fast and loose with the ball in his hands, and not always in a good way. A play late in the game that more or less summed up what we can probably expect from Gordon during his rookie season came when the 76ers were on the break. Gordon came over from the weak side, pulled a shot at the rim right out of the air, and instantly shot up the court with the ball to lead the break. His dribbling and prowess in the open floor looked amazing for about a second as he avoided defenders and wrapped the ball behind his back, but he turned it over with his next dribble. It was one of four turnovers from Gordon in only 25 minutes of play.
Summer League isn’t always a great indicator of future success, it’s only one game for Gordon and he probably looks worse here than he should because Noel, who was also considered a young, raw athlete, looked so dominant at times for the Sixers. But if this first showing is any indication of what Magic fans can expect this coming season, Gordon is a high-upside project who is going to require a lot of patience from his team and its fanbase.