2019-20 Magic Pre-Hiatus Review: Aaron Gordon

by John Denton

ORLANDO - Whereas the NBA is still on track to resume its interrupted season on July 30 at Disney World, in many ways that restart will feel like a completely new season to the players and coaches involved.

After all, it will be more than four months of time between the last NBA games being played on March 11 and the ones scheduled to start near the end of next month. Never before has the NBA seen a disruption in its season quite like the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic this season.

The Orlando Magic, for example, were 30-35 when the season was halted, but that record hardly tells the story of where the team sat when the suspension hit. As of early March, the Magic were among the hottest teams in the league after winning three games in a row, six of nine and eight of 12. Accordingly, their offensive production was off the charts and near the tops in the league during that hot streak.

Now, the Magic’s mission is to try and pick up where they left off when they rallied to beat the Grizzlies in Memphis on March 10. If that stirring victory feels like it was months ago, it’s because it truly was.

Over the coming weeks, OrlandoMagic.com will break down the overall play and top performances of the Magic’s key players over the first 65 games of the season. Also, we’ll analyze where those players need to improve when the NBA season resumes at Disney World on July 30. The NBA is sending 22 teams – nine from the East and 13 from the West – to play eight ``seeding’’ games before starting the traditional, four-round playoff format.

Without further ado, today we look at the play and production of forward Aaron Gordon, who overcame a rash of early-season injuries and started to play his best basketball just before the NBA season was stopped.

Player: Aaron Gordon
Position: Power forward
Height, weight, time with Magic: 6-9, 235, 6 seasons

2019-20 Statistics: 58 games; 14.4 points; 7.6 rebounds; 3.7 assists; 0.9 steals; 0.6 blocks; 43.3 FG percentage; 30.1 3FG percentage; 67.5 FT percentage.

2019-20 Best game: Feb. 28 (136-125 win vs. Minnesota) – 17 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, two blocks, six-of-13 shooting and four-of-five free throw shooting.

2019-20 Injury woes: Missed three games (Nov. 23-27) due to a right ankle sprain/contusion; missed two games (Dec. 30-Jan. 1) due to a sore left Achilles tendon; missed one game (Jan. 10) due to right calf tightness; missed one game (March 2) due to right knee inflammation.

2019-20 Season highs: 32 points (Dec. 4, vs. Phoenix); 14 rebounds (twice, most recently Jan. 6, vs. Brooklyn); 12 assists (Feb. 28, vs. Minnesota); three steals (March 8, at Houston); three blocks (twice, most recently Feb. 26 at Atlanta).

2019-20 Season to date: Magic fans looking to Gordon to have a breakout season were forced to wait for the talented forward to get over several lower-leg injuries before he finally hit his stride. After averaging 14.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 42.4 percent shooting over his first 49 games of the season, Gordon took his game to another level following the break for the NBA All-Star Game. Of course, Gordon could have been motivated following another controversial runner-up finish in the NBA Dunk Contest – this time losing out to Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. in Chicago.

In his nine games following the All-Star break, Gordon greatly boosted his production to 15.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists while making 47.7 percent of his shots. Not surprisingly, as Gordon played well, so too did the Magic.

Gordon notched the first triple-double of his NBA career on Feb. 28 against Minnesota – 17 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Days earlier, he was downright dominant in the second half of a Magic rally past the Brooklyn Nets, totaling 27 points, 10 rebounds and handing out four assists. That night, he also swatted two shots – the last one coming in the final seconds to preserve a Magic victory.

2019-20 Finish: Magic fans have to be wondering which Gordon they will get when the regular season resumes in late July – the one who struggled mightily with his health and his shot over his first 49 games or the one who dominated games in a variety of ways after the All-Star break? In the days and weeks before the shutdown of the season, Gordon was at his best with the ball in his hands while playing a point-forward type of position. He averaged 5.7 assists a night in 12 February games and 6.5 assists a night in four March games – more than two times his assist totals in 13 January games (2.9).

There is no doubting Gordon’s importance to the Magic’s ability to win at a high level. This season, Gordon has averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists while making 46.2 percent of his shots and 34.5 percent of his 3-point shots in the 28 wins he’s participated in. Conversely, he’s averaged just 12.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists while making only 40.1 percent of his shots and 25.9 percent of his 3-point shots in the 30 losses that he’s played in.

For the Magic to have a shot of pulling off a first-round upset in the playoffs, they will need Gordon to be aggressive and attentive going forward. Already the team’s best on-ball defender, Gordon showed an ability late in the season to be a difference-maker on the offensive end with his passing and his ability to get to the rim. If he can conjure up that same sort of success again, the Magic could be poised to win a playoff series for the first time since 2010.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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