Through Highs and Lows, Aaron Gordon's Confidence Doesn't Waver

By Josh Cohen
Nov. 30, 2017

ORLANDO – Some players are reluctant to stay aggressive after a cold-shooting start. Often what separates an average player from an elite player is how they react to adversity and frustration.

Aaron Gordon, who erupted for 40 points during the Orlando Magic’s victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, didn’t let three consecutive missed shots in the game’s opening minutes ruin his confidence. As Gordon raced back on defense after each of those possessions, it was apparent just from observing his overall body language that he was going to continue looking for those same shots.

That poise and perseverance spurred another spectacular performance from Gordon, who shot 13-of-23 from the floor, 6-of-12 from 3-point range and 8-of-11 from the free throw line. He also stuffed the rest of the stat sheet with 15 rebounds, four assists, four steals and one block.

“Being present, just breathing, taking what’s in front of me and seeing the play in front of me,” he said about his basketball growth. “I’ve picked up pieces here and there from a lot of guys that have been through here (Orlando), a lot of veterans. It just came all together. Hopefully I can just continue to play like that.”

In his fourth season with the Magic, Gordon is the first player since Dwight Howard in 2010-11 to score 40 points or more multiple times in the same season. He also joined Howard, Shaquille O’Neal and Tracy McGrady as the only players in franchise history with multiple games of at least 40 points and 10 rebounds in the same year.

Known as a good defender because of his athleticism, length, anticipation and timing, Gordon is learning how to juggle playing at a high level consistently on both ends of the floor.

With back-to-back stellar defensive efforts – first playing a big part in holding Thaddeus Young to two points on 1-of-9 shooting against the Pacers on Monday and then helping limit Carmelo Anthony to 5-of-16 shooting and 16 points versus the Thunder – Gordon seems to be figuring out what it takes to be a terrific two-way player.

“I like winning so you have to be able to do that (play both ends),” he said. “I love the game of basketball so to neglect one side of the floor, that’s disrespecting the game to me.”

Much of Gordon’s success this season stems from the decision by Frank Vogel in the middle of last year to play him exclusively at the power forward spot. That’s favorable for Gordon because he’s more often matched up against slower-footed, more methodical opponents.

It really shows in the pick-and-roll when he’s the screener as opposed to the ball-handler. So far this season, Gordon is 24-of-35 (68.5 percent) from the field in a pick-and-roll set when he’s the screener and 9-of-27 (33.3 percent) when he’s the ball-handler.

Considering he just recently turned 22 years old, Gordon knows there is so much more to his game that he hasn’t mastered yet. Aware of his potential but also humble and understanding that it’s a grueling process, he and his teammates are confident this is just the beginning of what’s to come in the future.

“He’s just hungry, he wants to prove himself so much,” veteran Arron Afflalo said. “It’s just about tempering your ego, tempering your self-motivation to make sure that everything works within the group. When he plays within the confines of the offense and with the team, he’s unbelievable. He’s got a high motor, very athletic and very skilled around the entire floor. He’s going to be a great player.”