The Orlando Magic are closing up on yet another unsuccessful season. Among many reasons for failure are factors like a poor roster and horrible contracts. Budding star Aaron Gordon is related to neither of these. Beyond some admittedly concerning injury problems, Gordon is a seemingly lone bright spot on a weak team. With restricted free-agent status looming over this summer, the Magic need to re-sign Aaron Gordon.
Orlando Magic Must Re-Sign Aaron Gordon
The first thing to remember with this season is that it is an “evaluation” year. The new front office intended to use this season to determine who would be on board and who wouldn’t after it’s conclusion. Orlando’s new management declined to extend Gordon to a new contract before the start of the season.
However, that may have been a poor decision in hindsight. By and large, Aaron Gordon has improved as a player since entering the league. Going forward, Gordon must continue to improve as a leader and live-up to his potential. Consequently, the team will want him to stay as it hopes to progress through another rebuild.
Gordon Needs to Take Charge
During the trade deadline, it seemed clear that no one on the roster was untouchable. Among the players shopped were longtime players like Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier. Ultimately, only point guard Elfrid Payton was traded to the Phoenix Suns. However, this made it clear that the Magic have something of a leadership vacuum.
In other words, they need their go-to guy. Gordon needed to be that guy even after playoff elimination. Unfortunately, Gordon hasn’t filled that role down the stretch. Granted, when a team has already missed the playoffs, motivating players to perform to their best ability is difficult.
However, someone on the Magic has to be the leader to build the culture around. Regardless, no one throughout this season has displayed that ability more than Gordon. It’s important to realize the Magic may decide to move veteran players this summer. If and when some of those players leave, Gordon would be the first man the team looks to. This makes it absolutely vital that the Magic retain Aaron Gordon.
Gordon’s Future for Improvement
Since entering the league, Gordon has a clear and solid level of growth. He now has a solid name for himself in this league. This is despite the 2016-17 season that set him back due to playing out of position.
One can argue that playing so much time at the small forward position made Gordon grow as a player. He shot a respectable 34% from three this season; a nice upgrade from the 28% he shot the season before. Additionally, Gordon will finish the season averaging roughly 17.8 points per game. He will likely tie Evan Fournier, also at 17.8 PPG, for best scoring on-average on the team once the season closes.
Even if Gordon draws even with Fournier’s PPG, he is as strong on defense as he is on offense. This is where Fournier struggles himself. Additionally, Gordon averages a decent 8 rebounds per game, 6.5 coming off defense grabs.
Overall, Gordon just has the right skills to play good defense. He is incredibly athletic and has great length for the modern game. He’s been able to shut down guards like Victor Oladipo and bigs like Kristaps Porzingis. His versatility on defense was truly on display during the period where the Magic weren’t technically out of the playoffs. Paired with a defensive star waiting to happen in Jonathan Isaac, Gordon’s defensive ability builds more of a case for the Magic to maintain him.
Progressing the Rebuild
Ultimately, keeping Gordon is the first step in this new rebuild. Obviously, the Orlando Magic is moving in a new direction and will look to the next few drafts for their superstar. For now, Gordon has earned his spot as being the foundation for the team to build on. Without him, this process is stalled even longer. By re-signing Gordon, the Magic invest in someone who can develop the new culture with skill and character.