3 Areas Aaron Gordon Improved the Most in 2018-19

by Josh Cohen

Defense

Aaron Gordon was a good defender during his first four years in the league. He became a great defender in 2018-19. So much so that the 6-foot-9, 220-pounder should be in the conversation for one of the NBA All-Defensive Teams.

2019 All-Stars Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard (regular season), Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, Bradley Beal, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade all shot well below their season averages from the field when Gordon was the closest defender to their shot attempts, per Second Spectrum tracking data.

Former All-Stars Kevin Love, Gordon Hayward and Draymond Green, meanwhile, shot a combined 4-of-19 from the floor when the Magic’s versatile forward was the closest defender.

One particular area Gordon improved in defensively this past season was guarding shooters when they flew around off-ball screens. Opponents combined to shoot 31 percent in these situations, nearly 12 percent lower than in 2017-18, when Gordon was guarding the shooter coming off a screen, which was the best mark in the NBA among players who defended at least 70 of these shot attempts.

Playmaking

Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford emphasized during training camp that this team needed to play inside-out, suggesting it was the best way to create good looks from beyond the arc.

From Jan 31 until the end of the regular season – a period in which the Magic went 22-9 and logged the third highest winning percentage – Orlando made the fourth most 3-pointers by way of kick-out passes, per data.

Gordon was just one of several Magic players who often made brilliant kick-out passes when collapsing the defense in the paint. Terrence Ross, frequently the beneficiary of teammates getting into the lane, made 50 percent of his threes throughout the regular season when Gordon delivered him a kick-out pass, per data.

The chemistry between A.G. and Nikola Vucevic significantly improved in 2018-19, as the Magic’s All-Star center shot 57 percent from the floor when Gordon fed him the ball. That was five percent better than the prior year and 14 percent better than two seasons ago.

Efficiency

Although he averaged more points in 2017-18, Gordon was much more efficient this past season, his fifth with the Magic. From nearly all ranges, the San Jose native shot higher field goal percentages.

The 23-year-old shot 40.4 percent from 20-to-24 feet out, a five percent improvement from the prior season, and 34.7 percent between five and nine feet away, nearly a 15 percent increase.

Better shot selection was a focal point coming into the season for Gordon, who shot nearly 45 percent overall and a shade under 35 percent from 3-point distance.

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