RotoWire Partners

2014 Rookie Projection: Aaron Gordon

Marc Roberts

Marc Roberts

Marc F Roberts writes about fantasy basketball for RotoWire. He has won no fantasy awards, but his mom thinks his writing is "fantastic".

This is part four in a series of articles looking at the fantasy value of players in the 2014 NBA Draft. Each post in this series will focus on a different rookie. In this post, I'll take a look at the fourth overall pick, Aaron Gordon. Here are links to the introduction to the series as well as Parts 1, 2, & 3:

Part 1: Andrew Wiggins (and Introduction)
Part 2: Jabari Parker
Part 3: Joel Embiid

The idea behind this series is that rookies have the potential to be great but also the potential to bust. To better understand the potential value of these players, I've developed a reasonable best, average, and worst-case scenario for each rookie based on comparable players who either had similar college careers (thanks to the work done by www.hickory-high.com) or who are generally given in the media as comparisons for each rookie (e.g. Joel Embiid is often compared to Hakeem Olajuwon).

This way, if you think Joel Embiid is the next Hakeem Olajuwon, you can use this analysis to help you know what that comparison means in terms of fantasy stats, as well as the value those stats would have in a standard 10-team rotisserie league. Then, when fantasy draft day rolls around, you will know exactly where you want to target these players based on your opinion of how their rookie season will turn out.

Aaron Gordon - Orlando Magic (4th Pick)

Player Comparisons Considered: (Draft Year & Pick, Similarity Score)
Terrence Jones (2012 - 18, 882), Kawhi Leonard (2011 - 15, 841), Shawn Marion (1999 - 9, N/A), Thaddeus Young (2007 - 12, 845), Luol Deng (2004 - 7, 885), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012 - 2, 897), Al-Farouq Aminu (2010 - 8, 821), Jeff Green (2007 - 5, 821), Jared Jeffries (2002 - 11, 862), Tristan Thompson (2011 - 4, 849), Andrei Kirilenko (1999 - 24, N/A)

Most mock drafts had the Magic taking Marcus Smart, Dante Exum or Noah Vonleh with the fourth pick, but the Magic surprisingly selected Gordon, a player with elite athleticism and the tools needed to be an outstanding defender. Gordon does have a huge red flag that should be particularly worrisome to fantasy owners. He is a very poor shooter, with exhibit A being his college free throw percentage of 42 percent.

Will the traits the Magic valued so highly in Gordon on draft night translate to fantasy value? The first step in finding out is to understand what level of playing time he will get in his first season with the Magic, as well as the pace that the Magic play at.

Minutes Per Game

To get an idea of Gordon's potential playing time in his first season, take a look at the average minutes played by Gordon's comparisons during their rookie seasons:

Player

TEAM

Year - PK

MPG

Jeff Green

SEA

2007 - 5

28.2

Luol Deng

CHI

2004 - 7

27.3

Andrei Kirilenko

UTA

1999 - 24

26.2

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

CHA

2012 - 2

26.0

Shawn Marion

PHO

1991 - 9

24.7

Kawhi Leonard

SAS

2011 - 15

24.0

Tristan Thompson

CLE

2011 - 4

23.7

Thaddeus Young

PHI

2007 - 12

21.0

Al-Farouq Aminu

LAC

2010 - 8

17.9

Jared Jeffries

WAS

2002 - 11

14.6

Terrence Jones

HOU

2012 - 18

14.5


Surprisingly, none of these 11 players (which includes six top 10 picks) averaged more than 28 minutes per game as rookies, and six of the 11 failed to average more than 24 minutes per game.

Looking at the Magic's depth chart we see that coach Jacque Vaughn will be splitting forward minutes between Gordon, Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, and recent addition Channing Frye. Because of the log jam at forward in Orlando and the history of similar players, I've projected Gordon at 26, 25, and 24 minutes per game in the three scenarios below.

Team Pace

Last season, the Magic averaged 93.6 possessions per game, just shy of the league average of 93.9 (per basketball-reference). This is a faster pace of play than every other team who drafted in the top six aside from the 76ers, who lead the league in pace at 99.2. This factor should boost Gordon's fantasy value when compared to the other teams he could have realistically been drafted by.

Best-Case Scenario: Shawn Marion (Draft: 1999 - 9, Similarity Score: N/A)

Marion seems to be the popular choice as the player comparison for Gordon, likely due to their similar levels of athleticism and motor, along with the perception that Marion is not a good shooter. (Marion made 141 three-pointers in his fourth NBA season and is a career 81 percent free-throw shooter, two marks Gordon seems unlikely to ever achieve.) Check out how Marion's stats in college compare with Gordon's college stats, adjusted to a per-40 minute basis (courtesy of sports-reference.com):

Per 40 Minutes

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Shawn Marion

32.9

15.0

53%

3.8

73%

0.7

9.3

1.2

2.5

1.9

18.7

Aaron Gordon

31.2

13.0

49%

6.2

42%

0.6

10.5

2.6

1.2

1.4

16.3


Aside from Gordon's poor free-throw shooting (30% worse than Marion's!), and Marion's superior rate of steals (2.5 spg vs. 1.2 spg), the players' college stats matchup fairly well.

Marion's rookie season stats (courtesy of basketball-reference.com) adjusted to the Magic's pace of play and an average of 26 minutes per game, produce the following projection for Gordon:

Player

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Auction Value

Fantasy Rank

Shawn Marion

26.0

9.7

47%

1.7

85%

0.1

6.8

1.4

0.8

1.1

10.7

$1

117


Yeesh. This stat line would have ranked as the 117th best fantasy player last season in a 10-team rotisserie league, worth $1 auction dollar. Remember this is the best-case scenario, which includes a seemingly unattainable 85 percent free throw percentage. This projection's limited value comes from two categories: blocks (1.1 bpg) and rebounds (6.8 rpg).

Average-Case Scenario: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Draft: 2012 - 2, Similarity Score: 897)

Gordon and Kidd-Gilchrist share many similarities. On the plus side, both are very athletic players who play with a lot of energy and have the tools needed to defend well. On the negative side, both struggle to shoot the ball efficiently. It turns out that their college stats were also very similar, as indicated by their Hickory-High Similarity Score (897), the highest for Aaron Gordon in the database. Below are the per-possession college stats of the two players (courtesy of draftexpress.com):

Per 40, Pace Adj

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Kidd-Gilchrist

31.1

10.4

49%

6.2

75%

0.4

9.5

2.4

1.2

1.2

15.3

Aaron Gordon

31.2

13.0

49%

6.2

42%

0.6

10.5

2.6

1.2

1.4

16.3


Aside from MKG's superior free-throw shooting, the two players had nearly identical college stats, with Gordon coming out slightly ahead in points (16.3 ppg vs. 15.3 ppg), rebounds (10.5 rpg vs. 9.5 rpg), and blocks (1.4 bpg vs. 1.2 bpg).

MKG's rookie season stats (courtesy of basketball-reference.com), adjusted for the Magic's pace of play, and an average of 25 minutes per game, produces the following projection for Gordon:

Player

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Auction Value

Fantasy Rank

Kidd-Gilchrist

25.0

7.8

46%

2.3

75%

0.0

5.8

1.5

0.7

0.9

8.9

$0

175


This scenario would have ranked 175th last season, far from “draftable" status in 10-team rotisserie leagues. This projection has some value in the same categories as the best-case scenario (blocks and rebounds) but not enough to make up for other poor categories (8.9 points per game for example). Rebounds in particular take a hit in this projection when compared to the best-case scenario (5.8 rpg vs. 6.8 rpg).

Worst-Case Scenario: Tristan Thompson (Draft: 2011 - 4, Similarity Score: 849)

Thompson received a 849 Hickory-High Similarity Score when compared with Gordon. Perhaps the most uniquely similar trait these two players share is their ability (or inability) to convert free-throw attempts. Check out the per possession college stats for the two players (courtesy of draftexpress.com):

Per 40, Pace Adj

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Tristan Thompson

30.7

11.4

55%

9.3

49%

0.0

10.0

1.6

1.2

3.1

16.7

Aaron Gordon

31.2

13.0

49%

6.2

42%

0.6

10.5

2.6

1.2

1.4

16.3


As I mentioned Thompson is also a poor free-throw shooter. In fact he was the only player I found in the Hickory-High database that had a comparable free-throw percentage to Gordon (49% vs. 42%). Thompson also had a very similar rebounding rate (10.0 rpg vs. 10.5 rpg), steal rate (1.2 spg vs. 1.2 spg), and scoring rate (16.7 ppg vs. 16.3). The only fantasy category where the two were significantly different in college was blocks, where Thompson averaged 3.1 bpg compared to Gordon's 1.4 bpg.

Thompson's rookie season (courtesy of basketball-reference.com), adjusted for the Magic's pace of play, and an average of 24 minutes per game, gives the following projection for Gordon:

Player

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Auction Value

Fantasy Rank

Thompson

24.0

7.6

44%

3.3

55%

0.0

6.7

0.5

0.5

1.1

8.5

$0

254


This projection would have ranked outside of the fantasy top 250 last season, which means you wouldn't want to own this player unless you played in a 20-team fantasy league. Like the other scenarios, this projection is above replacement level in blocks (1.1 bpg) and rebounds (6.7), but suffers from the lack of production in points (8.5 ppg) and assists (0.5 apg), as well as a poor free-throw percentage (55%).

My Projection

To develop my own projection for Gordon, I used a statistical technique that basically evaluates where Gordon ranked in college among his peers in a single category and then projects him to rank similarly in that category in the NBA. For example, if we look at points per game, Gordon had the 10th highest scoring average per possession in college of the 11 players that I compared him with. Therefore, my projection will have him ranked in approximately the same position when compared with that same group of players in the NBA. Completing this calculation for all of Gordon's fantasy categories produces the following projection, which again has been adjusted for the Magic's pace of play and an average of 25 minutes per game.

Player

MIN

FGA

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PM

REB

AST

STL

BLK

PTS

Auction Value

Fantasy Rank

Aaron Gordon

25.0

7.9

46%

2.3

52%

0.3

5.5

1.3

0.7

0.6

9.1

$0

224


This projection has Gordon ranked 224th in standard rotisserie leagues. As was the case in each of the scenarios above, Gordon's value here comes mainly from his production in rebounds (5.5 rpg) and blocks (0.6 bpg). However, these positive categories are swamped by negatives in the other categories, the foremost being free-throw percentage (52%).

My Recommendation For Draft Day

I don't think I can overstate this, if you play in a 10 or 12-team redraft league, stay away from Gordon. He may be fun to watch, but there is very little chance that he has consistent fantasy value in standard leagues this year.

Over the next few weeks, a similar breakdown will be provided for several other rookies. You can check back often for new breakdowns to be posted, or you can follow me on Twitter for links to the new breakdowns.

If you have thoughts about these projections that you'd like to discuss, or if you'd like me to calculate an alternative scenario, please leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter.
Top Fantasy Basketball Player News