Part of what makes this year’s draft class so intriguing is the obvious strengths and weaknesses attributed to every player from the top down. Do you love Jabari Parker’s offense? Better be able to argue that his defense can improve. Is Andrew Wiggins’ athleticism winning you over? Better hope he is assertive enough in the NBA. Do you appreciate Julius Randle’s tough, bruising style? Better hope he can still power through opponents at the pro-level.
For Arizona forward Aaron Gordon — who has now been tied to the Celtics several times — the knock has always been his shooting, specifically from the free throw line. He shot an abysmal 42.2 percent in college, and while scouts have pointed out that his form has improved drastically, his numbers during the college season are has been very problematic. After a workout with the Celtics on Thursday, Gordon tried to assuage everyone’s concerns, somewhat unprompted, when he was asked what he hoped to show teams considering drafting him.
“I can shoot free throws better,” Gordon said. “I can do that now.”
“It’s the same shot every time,” he continued. “It’s more fluent, more relaxed. Obviously, there’s not thousands of fans around, but it still feels better. I can put it in, I can control it, it just feels better. A lot of what happened throughout the season is I’d get on a roll and get to the free throw line and it would cool me off a little. Now, getting to the free throw line is just re-establishing what I do from the perimeter, and it keeps me on a roll.”
First of all, let’s point out that Gordon has clearly been coached by his agent to bring this up. He’s not going to convince anyone that he has improved by waving off his college numbers as an outlier, but perhaps by acknowledging the problem and offering an explanation as to why the problem is now solved, he can improve his stock.
I don’t believe Aaron Gordon when he says that getting to the free throw line is now just re-establishing what he does on the perimeter. I think he would choose to get out in transition or face up and attack the basket 10 times out of time over having to go to the free throw line. But I also do believe he can improve markedly from the line, and maybe he already has. As always, take any pre-draft chatter for what it is: An attempt by each player or agent to improve the player’s draft stock. But just because something has been spun positively doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false.
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