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Aaron Gordon: “I Can Shoot Free Throws Now”

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.”

Well then.

“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.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.

  • hax

    I believe he’s improved on it, but I don’t believe it’s NBA level 75% or higher.
    Reason: 19 years to shoot free throws good = Below 50%
    3 months more = ‘practically ray allen at the line now.’

    That said, I’ve seen many rookies look like completely different players from their college selves.

  • dasein

    Well, he would say that wouldn’t he…

    Look, the real issue isn’t the FTs (which is not to say that isn’t a problem too), it’s that not being able to shoot FT is a strong indicator that you can’t shoot in general. This was pretty much what the interview in the previous podcast was saying. If you can’t shoot in today’s NBA, then your team ends up having to play 4 on 5 on offense. That isn’t winning basketball.

    I know that we often tend to focus on the negatives when evaluating players, but shooting is so fundamental to the game that it’s kind of a deal breaker in my opinion, unless we’re talking a legitimate centre, which in this case we are not. I’d much rather have the guy who can shoot and has the physical tools but lacks “feel for the game” That is the kind of stuff that does improve with experience and coaching.

    Like hax said, he’s had plenty of time to work on this, and it’s all come together in a few months before the draft? I’ve got a bridge I’d love to sell too.

  • hax

    No Celtics news? Booo. Well here’s some notable free agents.

    Kyle Lowry
    Lance Stephenson
    Luol Deng
    Paul Pierce
    Dirk Nowitzki
    Pau Gasol
    Marcin Gortat
    Spencer Hawes
    Emeka Okafor

    Eric Bledsoe
    Isaiah Thomas
    Gordon Hayward
    Greg Monroe

    Player Option
    Dwyane Wade
    LeBron James
    Carmelo Anthony
    Rudy Gay
    Chris Bosh
    Tim Duncan
    Zach Randolph

  • dasein

    I doubt anyone is paying attention to this post anymore, but I found this in Kevin Pelton’s chat today:

    Dean (New York)

    What do you make of Aaron Gordon shooting about 33% from 3 with a low sample size?

    Kevin Pelton

    Not a ton. I think the more relevant factor is his poor free throw shooting. Ken Pomeroy has done some research showing that FT% is also an important indicator of future 3P% in college since it provides a more reliable sample size.

    So some stat geekery to back up what I was saying before about FT being an indicator