Off-season bubble scouting: Aaron Gordon

Part 1 of glimpses of potential Warriors 2021 targets

The NBA bubble is here and with the Golden State Warriors “deleted”, I thought it would be constructive to start taking a look at some 2020-21 free agents who have been noted by insiders as possibly being on general manager Bob Myers’ radar.

I started out wanting to lump Aaron Gordon, Michael Carter-Williams, Jae Crowder and Rudy Gay all into one report here, as they all played in the first two days of scrimmages at Walt Disney World, but it got too long — not that this one isn’t — so I’ll break them up and add more notes should they happen to play more games by the time those get published.

Now, there’s guys like DJ Augustin and Evan Fournier who have been mentioned as well, but they’re not as compelling to me at this moment in time, plus it’s hard enough to scout more than one player per game. Of course, either Augustin or Fournier could end up as Warriors in backup roles and of course they have some value, otherwise they wouldn’t have been mentioned by any Warriors insiders.

I’ve been more cognizant of not throwing any NBA guys “under the bus”, so you typically won’t find me overly criticizing any of the 450 of the best players on the planet. That’s a culmination of the fact that, eventually, I’ll see a lot of these guys in NBA locker rooms, as well as my alter ego of running men’s recreational basketball leagues since 2002 — the path to the NBA is on another level and I’m not here to make a living disrespecting any of those 450 processes. Expect a lot of positivity in my observations.

As for Gordon, Sam Vecenie of TheAthletic first proposed that the Warriors could use the TPE to clear James Johnson from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ books, then flip him to the Orlando Magic for the 6’8” (7’0” wingspan) Gordon and, presumably, the Warriors’ 2021 pick owed by Minnesota (Top 3-protected, although it’d be a surprise if the Wolves are that bad next year) in the D’Angelo Russell trade.

If you watched the Magic vs Los Angeles Clippers scrimmage, which was the first scrimmage of the whole NBA bubble, you’d be “all in” on Vecenie’s idea. Here are some notes from watching just Gordon go up and down the court:

  • He passed up an open three late in the shot clock, dribbled in, faked a two-point jumper, and dished off, leading to a rushed shot for someone else, which probably frustrated a lot of Magic fans. But for DubNation, you’re like, “Meh.” We’ve got Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and/or Andrew Wiggins on the receiving end of those, so that’s actually the type of deferring we’d like to integrate.

  • Gordon drove into traffic (not a good decision) into a well-fortified paint, did a behind-the-back dribble to avoid the help, then dished to the corner. I was actually impressed that play didn’t end up a turnover, so I guess give him an uptick in the dribbling category. It’s unlikely he’d do much dribbling anyways, in Steve Kerr’s pass-heavy offense,

  • “AG” got an easy steal at half court, but then turned that into a low-percentage trey just pulling it with no teammates around. Guess he was feeling it because he’d just drilled a triple with two seconds left on the shotclock, then impressively grazed a Kawhi Leonard jumper. That bad trey might even be excusable with the “feed-the-hot-hand” style the Dubs play, but you’d imagine anytime Steph and Klay are on the court, people will think twice about taking a rushed three.

  • Speaking of defense, he did well on rotating after getting picked, and then on closing out on the weakside three-point attempt after collapsing into the paint. Draymond Green, who’s talked many a time at morning shootaround scrums about getting out to three-point shooters, would probably give it a B+.

  • AG did well in the post, as you’d hope, scoring a finger roll against a smaller defender and then against a similarly sized defender, dishing to a cutter for a dunk.

  • On a play that didn’t count, he grabbed a seemingly out-of-reach lob with one hand and slammed it down for a dunk, but the ref had correctly whistled a traveling violation on the passer. Let’s not forget Gordon’s arguably been robbed of not one, but two Slam Dunk Contests.

So I think it’s a no-brainer to pursue Gordon, although these notes are based off of one scrimmage. I saw some other accolades from NBA writers, namely that he’s been injured a lot this season and this scrimmage was the best he’s looked in awhile.

But if performances like this are repeatable, and there’s no reason to think the Warriors culture can’t very well do that, not that the tasks above were even that hard to do, remember that AG can guard a 3 through a 5. So he provides a lot of versatility, as well as the obvious length and athleticism. And he can drain an open triple.

Maybe someone in his circle can coerce him into demanding a trade assuming the James Johnson part of the deal is realistic. AG, a native of San Jose and Mitty High School alum, returning to the Bay would be quite the off-season story.

Would he even start? Seems like the 4 is Draymond’s spot. I’ll get into this more as we approach the Draft, but I implore Warriors fans not to only think in terms of the starting five. The last five Finals, we barely ended up with the same five guys that started the game. A good portion of an NBA game is spent with a mixture of starters and bench/role players, so Gordon provides that versatility, like Wiggins, where you can ask him to be a primary scorer for a little bit when Steph and Klay are on the bench. In other words, who cares? That’ll be Kerr’s problem and he’s done well with such problems in the past. Heck, he turned one of them into a potential Hall-of-Fame nod for Andre Iguodala.

Also, the ability to switch on defense and, well, not be “wet-behind-the-ears” and learn the concepts and terminology sooner rather than later, is a huge plus. Gordon’s been around the league long enough. I’m just not sure DubNation has realized that this has become the blueprint for the blue and gold. Find guys that are similar to Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, and so on. It’s hard not to picture AG fitting in well with the culture and chemistry.

All my real-time tweets of the Gordon (and MCW) scouting can be found below. Feel free to give me a follow on Twitter, although I highly recommend everyone use Twitter’s Lists feature, as the algorithms for social media timelines (obviously Facebook and Instagram, most notably) have become shitty: