• Does Aaron Gordon Need Another Year? Yes!


    Contributing Writer
    Maggie Simpson


    This article is a response to a recent piece titled "Does Aaron Gordon Need Another Year? No!" What do you think? Share your opinions on our forum by clicking here.

    Aaron Gordon is far and away the most paradoxical player of this year’s Arizona team.

    He is the darling of ESPN’s highlight reel yet he is nationally panned for his inability to convert from the free-throw line. He has been both the catalyst for many of Arizona’s most dazzling victories and a liability for their two losses.

    It would be far simpler to blame the latter on Brandon Ashley’s untimely, season-ending injury… far too simple. The fact is, Ashley on the sidelines coincides with the fact that three of Arizona’s other starters are in season slumps… one of whom is Gordon.

    It would be both too easy to and too negligent not to begin with Gordon’s performance from the free-throw line. Often thought of as “gimme” points, the free-throw line is the realm from which Gordon should be at his most punishing. Gordon is dominant on the boards and intense on defense, both of which put the ball in his hands often and allow him to be fouled often.

    However, his inability to make free throws potentially renders him more of an asset to his opponents in close games. This has never been more evident than in the USC game, in which the Trojans elected to apply the “hack-a-Shaq” mentality to Gordon—in short, fouling the weakest free-throw shooter in an attempt to recoup possession. Fortunately for the Wildcats, this is illegal in college play.

    It is widely apparent that Gordon’s free-throw struggles are mental. His misses are widely varied in nature, and it is nearly impossible to believe that that is either a reflection of a lack of discipline on his part or a reflection of Sean Miller’s negligence as a coach. Miller has referenced Gordon’s free-throw percentage in the games in which it has been particularly abysmal, or costly (even victories)—the Utah game, in which Gordon pulled down twelve rebounds but was four-for-ten from the free-throw line, the UCLA game, in which Gordon missed free throws at particularly critical junctures, or most injuriously, the second ASU game, in which Gordon was 3-for-8 from the free-throw line and the Wildcats lost by three in double-overtime.

    In the victories in which Gordon performed poorly from the line, he was bolstered by a teammate having a standout game, however, it should not come to that. For a player who expects to stand out at the next level of basketball—the highest level of basketball—it should simply not come to that.

    The fact is, for all Gordon’s versatility and raw athleticism, he is young. For whatever reason, the free-throw line has mind-checked him, and it has seeped into other areas of his game. He has been stymied from the field of late, and rather than step up in the face of his team’s recent hardship, he has allowed himself to fade. This is not an indictment of him as a player; rather, it is a call for him to give himself another year to prepare mentally for the challenges that will await him in the NBA.

    Yes, Gordon’s dunks are breathtaking. His ability to snag a rebound amid a cluster of other players is an asset to any team. His capability—not his overall delivery, but his ability to do so under certain circumstances—to shoot to the point where he can take over a game exists. In order to do himself justice, however, he would benefit fully from another year under Miller’s tutelage. He should develop his outside shot and his ball-handling (as anyone who has ever screamed at the TV, “Give it up!” when Gordon handles the ball in the back-court can attest to), and he should take the time to figure out whatever mental block precludes him from a respectable showing at the free-throw line.

    I hope to see Gordon in the NBA someday. Someday, but not next year.
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. Ric Aspen's Avatar
      Ric Aspen -
      I agree. He would benefit greatly from another year of college ball.
    1. Dawgwarrior's Avatar
      Dawgwarrior -
      Interesting insight, thank you. But let me ask you a question. Why would AG stay if he can practice EVERYTHING at the next level without having to worry about class etc... Also why would he come back for Miller's Tutelage when it was said Miller being a Negligent coach. For those 2 reasons I wouldn't stay. But if he wants to stay its cause he wants to grow stronger both physically and mentally. I don't think the free throws are as bad under pressure as you might seem. I just think that if he misses the free throws then his team will just pick that back up. Look when Duke fouled him on purpose. That pissed him off and he made the free throws. He just needs to realize they are not #1 and need every point possible regardless.
    1. GoAz-N-SoCal's Avatar
      GoAz-N-SoCal -
      Another year would do Gordon well! He can avoid this top-heavy freshman class, get stronger, work on a decent jump shot, and practice more free throws. If Gordon was a dominant offensive player in the paint, like Shaq, and he is not, I would say work on your free throws in the NBA and go for it!
    1. AztecWildcat's Avatar
      AztecWildcat -
      I believe everyone should stay all four years in college. Steve Kerr was interviewed by Bill Simmons 2-3 years ago and he was adamant that staying in college will help a player in their long term career in the NBA.
    1. TruRedBlue13's Avatar
      TruRedBlue13 -
      2 and done
    1. AlwaysBeenACatFan's Avatar
      AlwaysBeenACatFan -
      Everyone agrees he needs another year, but SHOULD he stay another year.....? NO. If your a top 10 pick you take the money and go. You work on your areas of improvement there..... IF your a top 10 pick. It make good Business sense.

      As a slefish fan, yes, please stay, even if your a top 10 pick..... Because I really don't care about you, only about winning and giving the UA their best shot.
    1. Cathawk's Avatar
      Cathawk -
      Gordon's a guy whose athletic ability will instantly translate to the nba, prolly even almost immediately have a greater impact in the NBA style of game.
    1. Jeff's Avatar
      Jeff -
      So AG is too mentally weak for the NBA right now? He needs another year or more not to work on any skills, but to strengthen his mental resolve? AG doesn't strike me as someone who the NBA may crush psychologically.
    1. lsg_da_apache's Avatar
      lsg_da_apache -
      I agree with AlwaysBeenACatFan if he is a lock for a top 10 lottery pick, then go. Work on your game with NBA trainers, without having to worry about going to class.
    1. CoolCat's Avatar
      CoolCat -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dawgwarrior View Post
      Interesting insight, thank you. But let me ask you a question. Why would AG stay if he can practice EVERYTHING at the next level without having to worry about class etc... Also why would he come back for Miller's Tutelage when it was said Miller being a Negligent coach. For those 2 reasons I wouldn't stay. But if he wants to stay its cause he wants to grow stronger both physically and mentally. I don't think the free throws are as bad under pressure as you might seem. I just think that if he misses the free throws then his team will just pick that back up. Look when Duke fouled him on purpose. That pissed him off and he made the free throws. He just needs to realize they are not #1 and need every point possible regardless.
      Your missing the point. It is hard on young players in the NBA, very mentally challenging. Aaron is very young and he isn't even mentally strong enough to hit a free throw. How is he going to handle the NBA mentally? Its not about skill it is about mental approach and maturity. How many talented young players have jumped to early and never recover. I would hate to see that happen to Aaron. Maybe he would be OK but I think the risk is too high that his confidence would flounder and he would never recover. If he stays until he is ready in all areas then that is much less likely. It doesn't matter what we think though as he will go if he is projected to land in the lotto.
    1. Catbus's Avatar
      Catbus -
      I believe Gordon's intention is to be an impact player in the NBA and not simply be drafted or "get paid." His best chance of that happening is being a lottery pick which puts pressure on the NBA team to put him on the floor and allow him to "figure it out" at the NBA level.
      At the beginning of the year he was a lotto lock, but his stock has fallen and it doesn't appear to be a guarantee at this point. If he finishes the year strong and helps lead the team in a deep tournament run he may be a lottery lock again.

      Bottom line, get multiple good sources of information and don't leave unless you are a lottery pick because the Freshman to Sophomore transition next year gives him as good a chance as anyone in the country to be a lotto pick next year if this year doesn't work out.
    1. Murd's Avatar
      Murd -
      Gread read!
    1. Papadeuce's Avatar
      Papadeuce -
      Excellent read on a touchy topic IMO. I think it'd benefit him if he stays but I'm not gonna act like leaving is the worst thing for him either.
    1. ATX_Wildcat's Avatar
      ATX_Wildcat -
      Tonight @Utah leaves me convinced he needs another year in the desert ... At least one...
    1. thecatsmeow's Avatar
      thecatsmeow -
      The most disappointing thing with AG is when Ashley went down it cleared a big spot for AG to step up and show he can dominate college level players. Honestly it appears he has regressed since Ashley got hurt. Hopefully he makes the right decision for his game and comes back a second year instead of chasing the money.
    1. DoubleJ's Avatar
      DoubleJ -
      I was going to make a similar point to CoolCat about emotional maturity. Look, this is a great kid, he's in it for the team, coachable, works hard, etc. Basically, a surprising amount of "intangibles" for a guy with his athletic skills. For whatever reason - looks to be largely psychological - he is really struggling to put the ball in the basket this year. The bottom line is that no amount of athletic ability can overcome this amount of emotional fragility. He's barely 18, lots of brain development to go, and from my experience, there is a major difference between 20-21 year-old males and 18 year-olds. It's a shame that he got a little ahead of himself and didn't let the process happen organically. I believe he has brought this mostly on himself and hopefully it will be a great learning experience for years to come. Wouldn't you love to have the life stress of becoming a millionaire at 18 or 19? He's going to make it in the NBA, I'm in the camp that he'll have a better chance at thriving (vs. surviving) in the NBA, if he stays a year to mature.
    1. Proud Mom's Avatar
      Proud Mom -
      What e needs and what will happen are two completely different things, unfortunately.

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