Magic’s Aaron Gordon ends bumpy summer league on high note

Orlando's Aaron Gordon (00) drives around Memphis' Jarnell Stokes during an NBA summer league basketball game this week.

John Raoux

ORLANDO, Fla. — Aaron Gordon began the Orlando Pro Summer League playing the small forward position almost exclusively.

The Magic then moved him to the power forward spot. By the time things wrapped up Friday, he was at center.

As much as this week was about learning the nuances of the pro game after just one year at the University of Arizona, it also was about the Magic trying to get a better idea in what areas their fourth overall pick can excel at and what he needs to work on.

When training camp opens at the end of September, Gordon will have finally turned 19. Will he also have the right aptitude to go along with the right attitude and apply the lessons he learned?

"Statistically wise, I didn’t do great," said Gordon, who averaged 7.8 points and 5.0 rebounds as the Magic went 3-2 in the 10-team league. "But it was fun basketball, and I took a lot away from it. When I get back in the gym, I’m going to have an idea of what I need to work on."

The combination of a bruised left ankle sustained Tuesday by center Dewayne Dedmon and a shortage of available players overall caused Gordon, who stands at 6-foot-9, to play out of position.

In a game against the Detroit Pistons that tipped off at the ridiculously early hour of 8 a.m., he was no longer matched up against quick and smaller players. Gordon was able to get the ball on the wing and drive with much greater success than when he was held without a field goal in 25 minutes in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Gordon finished with 12 points and five rebounds in the 96-87 victory over the Pistons. He did not turn the ball over in 28 minutes as the Magic led by as many as 26 points.

"We just spread the floor out a little bit and made it easier to attack," Gordon said. "I decided to start driving a little bit more and let everything else come."

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"We were short on bodies," said Magic assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr., who had Victor Oladipo back after a day off but used only eight players. "To (Gordon’s) credit, it gave him the advantage to now attack a slower big. It’s a different dynamic than when you’re guarded by a small forward."

Gordon’s play throughout the week was more uneven than that of fellow first-round pick Elfrid Payton, who recovered from a rough first game to play as well as anyone other than Oladipo. The 6-foot-2 guard from Louisiana-Lafayette collected 30 assists and only 16 turnovers over the Magic’s last four games. He even knocked down his first 3-pointer in an 18-point, eight-assist, four-steal performance against the Pistons.

After averaging almost a steal and a block per game during his freshman year, Gordon had a total of no steals and two blocks in his pro debut.

"I think the thing we saw with Aaron and Elfrid is they maintained a competitive vibe, a true grit to everything they did," Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said. "That’s the biggest takeaway. That’s the thing we’re most proud of — how hard they compete on every possession."

Second-round pick Devyn Marble bounced back from an 0-of-7 performance Thursday against the Boston Celtics to score 16 points in his only start of the week. He credited Payton for how well he played.

"I love him," Marble said. "I’ve never really played with a point guard that can get into the lane and create for me. I definitely tried to take advantage of that this week. He makes the game a lot easier for the people around him. That’s what you want in a point guard."

Added Payton: "I think I have a pretty good foundation. Every day I got better."

Seth Curry also made his first start and had 10 points in 32 minutes, although he missed five of his seven 3-pointers. Hennigan said no decision has been reached yet about whether Curry, who will play in the Las Vegas Summer League for the Phoenix Suns, could be invited to Magic training camp.

"Seth played very well," Hennigan said. "And we’ll continue to be in touch with him and see what happens."

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at