Aaron Gordon understands why he’s in this position.
“It’s the intangibles: passing, rebounding, running the floor, the athleticism, of course, being able to handle the ball, and as of now everything is coming together,” he said.
Gordon was a jack-of-all trades, uber-athlete force at both ends for one of the top teams in the country this past season. He did a little bit of everything as needed to help his team win games, and there’s certainly something to be said for that.
If you watched him closely, though, you’re aware he displayed both inconsistency and promise as a shooter.
And if you weren’t aware, here’s what Gordon had to say about his jimmy last week at the combine.
“I overhauled my free throws because I didn’t really have a consistent shot,” he explained. “I didn’t have a consistent jumper; I had maybe three different ones. That’s not OK. You start by not having a specific jumper and now I have one jumper that I shoot every single time. What was happening is my free throw was disconnected from my jumper. I would get to my peak and then shoot it. Now what I’ve done is I’ve connected my three, my pull-up, my 17-footer and my free throw. It’s all one shot.”
How erratic was his shooting? He had only two games where he was over 50 percent from the 3-point line and the foul line.
Clearly, this will be a major area of emphasis during workouts with lottery teams.
To his credit, Gordon’s mechanics did appear improved – although a bit mechanical – as he shot around and waited for his measurements to be taken. But that’s far from a game situation.
“Using the momentum of my jump to propel the rest of my shot,” he explained to the media. “It’s not jump, shoot. It’s shot.”
Where will his progression be by the time his rookie year rolls around?
“Just becoming a consistent knock-down jump shooter,” said Gordon. “I have complete confidence – real confidence – that I’ll be able to do that when my rookie year comes around.”
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that changing one’s shooting form takes time. It takes thousands of repetitions of working on minuscule details before one can become a consistent shooter. Patience is vital.
Whoever drafts him would be wise to understand that this is the case.
Next season (and beyond), we will see how his form (and game) evolve as he adjusts to the quicker tempo of the NBA.
Make no mistake about it: Early isn’t competing with the above players for position in this year’s draft.
That being said, Early is a gritty, do-it-all, seasoned competitor who proved he can be the central part of a winning program while at Wichita State.
His size won’t wow you and his shot isn’t the prettiest, but he he does have good shot selection and plays extremely hard at both ends. He’s the epitome of the age-old dilemma: He doesn’t have a clear-cut position at the NBA level.
For Early and whoever drafts him, that isn’t a problem. It’s a starting point.
“I was little,” said Early. “I was a 5-7 freshman. I didn’t grow until high school. … By my senior year I was 6-5 or 6-6. I had to learn how to play in the post and run the floor a little bit.”
For anyone trying to give Early a position, good luck.
“I think I can play the 3 and I think I can be a really good 3,” he said. “I don’t think I’m a 4, but if I need to play the 4, I’ll play the 4. If I need to play the 2, I’ll play the 2.”
Early is a player, and no matter where he ends up going on draft night, a position will forever be a label that attempts to define him.
Jeremy Bauman is a shooting coach and aspiring front office professional who writes columns for SheridanHoops.com. At night time he can be found at STATS LLC / SportVU, the NBA’s emerging game-tracking software, as an Overnight Data Analyst. Follow him on Twitter @JB_For_3_.