Orlando has struggled drastically in the post-Dwight Howard era.
They have yet to make a playoff appearance and had been devoid of young talent. That changed during the 2014 NBA Draft. The Magic possessed the fourth overall selection in a three-horse race, with the main prizes being Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid.
The Magic had their pick of the litter for the rest of the crowd, and they found their match in ultra-athletic forward, Aaron Gordon. In his one season at Arizona, Gordon showed off his elite athleticism by being a great defender and rebounder. Even Gordon's offense flashed as he averaged 12.4 points and showed signs of a developing jump shot. The Magic saw a potential all-around star, who drew comparisons to a young Blake Griffin, due to his freakish athletic ability.
While Gordon has made strides through his first two years and looked great off of the bench last season, he finds himself in an odd situation.
The Magic have brought in Serge Ibaka, Jeff Green, and Bismack Biyombo to the front court, causing a potential minutes logjam for Gordon. This feels like the organization sending a message to Gordon, that this season is make-or-break for him. But did they hurt his growth and confidence by bringing in these players, at such a high price?
Many say yes, but maybe this could be the motivation that Gordon needs to shine.
Will Gordon Start?
Gordon was very solid and efficient off the bench last season, averaging 9.2 points and 6.5 boards per game in only 24 minutes. But it seems unlikely that he will be in the starting line-up in the season opener. When looking at the team's landscape, its trade for Serge Ibaka, and financial commitment to Jeff Green, it appears that Green's scoring ability and veteran presence will give him the nod as the starting forward alongside Ibaka.
But that doesn't mean that Gordon can't play his way into the starting line-up. His motor, defensive ability, and athleticism make him an ideal weapon for the play style implemented by new coach, Frank Vogel.
Gordon certainly has the talent to earn a starting spot and is, arguably, the most talented player on the Orlando roster. At 6-9, 220lbs, Gordon has the size to play either forward spot, while defending and rebounding at a high level from either spot. If Gordon can sure up his jumper and be more consistent, he would almost certainly supplant Green from the starting line-up.
And can you imagine a front court of Gordon, Ibaka, and Biyombo? That would be an absolutely dominant defensive group.
But for now, it seems that Gordon will assume a reserve role, albeit a key role, again to start this season.
Will Orlando's Additions Hurt Gordon?
With Ibaka, Green, and Biyombo joining Gordon and Nikola Vucevic in the front court, there are not enough minutes to go around for all of them to make a meaningful contribution.
Many view Vucevic as the odd man out and that he may get traded, but maybe the regime views Gordon as that guy. That seems unlikely because he is still so young and talented, but GM Rob Hennigan and crew have shown that they may be willing to overpay for veteran talent.
Gordon's minutes could certainly be cut as a result of these additions and if that is the case, it seems that his growth will be hurt. It is very difficult for young players to develop if the organization doesn't give them to opportunity or support to help them do so.
Let's hope that is not the case for Gordon, but it 's within the realm of possibility.
However, I view Gordon as the most talented player on the Magic roster and think that Vogel is the perfect coach for him. Like Budenholzer and Millsap in Atlanta, Stotts and Lillard in Portland, or Thomas and Stevens in Boston, I see Vogel and Gordon as having the potential to be a great coach/player combo.
If a coach can turn Gordon into a star, it's Frank Vogel. Gordon's skill set is one that could help mold the identity of a new era for a team. His motor, toughness, and grit coupled with immense physical talent make him a potentially special player.
While Orlando may have added one too many players to their front court, it will be difficult to stop the Aaron Gordon train.
He is, simply, too talented and too good of a fit with the coach to get pushed out of the picture. Yes, the acquisitions of Green, Ibaka, and Biyombo could hold him back, but the single addition of Vogel makes up for it.
Gordon feels like an Orlando mainstay and, potentially, a franchise pillar for many years to come.