WALTHAM, Mass. – The first words out of Aaron Gordon’s mouth after his workout at the Boston Celtics’ training facility summed up exactly what the 18-year-old is trying to prove to NBA scouts.
“I can shoot free throws now,” Gordon, one of six prospects invited to work out Thursday, told reporters with a smile. “I’ve got that down.”
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward was a force on the defensive end during his one season at Arizona, showing an ability to guard both big men and quicker guards, but his offensive game appeared very unfinished. Gordon averaged 12.4 points per game — second-best on a Wildcats team that spent much of the season ranked No. 1 in the nation — but was criticized for his shooting form. This was particularly apparent at the foul line, from which Gordon shot a miserable 42.2 percent.
So, after declaring for the NBA draft, Gordon went to work with the goal of completely retooling his shot into something much more consistent and repeatable.
“It’s the same shot every time,” he said of his newly found form. “More fluid, more relaxed. Obviously, there’s not thousands of fans around, but it still feels better even when I’m in the gym by myself shooting. I can really control it. It’s fluid. It just feels better.
“A lot of what was happening throughout the season was I’d get on a roll, and I’d get to the free throw line and it would kind of cool me off a bit. Now, if I get to the free throw line it just reestablishes what I can do and keeps me on a roll.”
Gordon said the reworking of his stroke from the line has had a positive effect on his field-goal shooting, as well, which he acknowledges still needs to improve for him to have success at the next level.
“Once you understand, then you can self-coach, and self-coach, and self-coach, and (get that) repetition,” he said. “You can shoot a thousand shots or a million shots, but if you’re shooting the wrong way, you’re never going to get better. I think I know how to shoot the right way, and now I’m just adding on.”
“I think Aaron’s biggest strength is his versatility,” Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge added. “I think he will be able to guard almost every position on the court, and that’s really his strength. He’s a great defender. He handles the ball pretty well for a guy his size, and he’s going to have to continue to improve his shooting, but he’s a worker, and I think he will.”
It’s important to mention, though, that even with Gordon’s shooting concerns, it’ll be a shock if he isn’t a lottery pick on June 26, and many Celtics fans are clamoring for Danny Ainge to snatch him up if he’s still available at No. 6. If his stroke continues to develop, his ceiling is among the highest of any player in this draft class.
Photo via Twitter/@Braedenks