Consistent Aaron Gordon is key to Orlando Magic’s Playoff hopes

Dec 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) drives to the basket as Los Angeles Lakers center Timofey Mozgov (20) defends during the second half at Amway Center.Orlando Magic defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 109-90.  Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic need consistent production on offense from Aaron Gordon in order to reach the playoffs this season and compete with the top teams in the East.

The Orlando Magic need consistent production on offense at small forward in order to reach the playoffs this season, which means Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green need to step up on a nightly basis. And, considering the admittedly legitimate questions about the team’s development strategy, Aaron Gordon in particular.

Gordon scored a career-high 33 points on Dec. 14 against the L.A. Clippers, shooting 4 for 8 from beyond the arc (his most makes and attempts) and Monday he finished with 30 points against the Memphis Grizzlies, the second-most of his career, going 11 for 15 from the floor and 4 for 4 from 3-point range, tying his personal-best and he was stellar on defense.

The potential for him to succeed at the 3 is there. The question is, can he have similar games more often?

Wednesday night he had a mediocre showing against the Charlotte Hornets, forcing several shots that were outside of his comfort zone to finish with just two points on 1-for-5 shooting, including 0 of 2 behind the arc.

That performance proved how much the team needs him to resemble the player befitting the fourth overall selection in the NBA Draft if they want to be a playoff team and compete with the best of the East.

They need Gordon to become a more dependable and consistent scorer.

Gordon has not been that this season. His lackluster offensive performance against a solid team like the Hornets suggests he might not be ready to play at small forward on a regular basis.

Against the Grizzlies, Gordon was in attack mode early and he took over the offense, which is something he has not done often. Seeing a young player like him carry the team at times was refreshing and it was the key to an impressive 112-102 home win.

The problem is Gordon can be in a groove one night and go missing the next. It was impressive to see him put up 30 points on the Grizzlies, a team that currently has the best defensive rating in the NBA (99.8), but he could not do the same against the Hornets.

In fact, it felt like the Magic barely involved him.

Similarly, following his 30-point game against the Clippers, he scored 13 against the Nets. But was soon back to scoring in single digits. Gordon has had back-to-back double-digit games on just five occasions. And has hit one streak of three consecutive double-digit scoring games. Never has he scored 20 in back-to-back outings.

How can Aaron Gordon be more consistent? Gordon is averaging a career-high with 10.6 points per game. His drop from 6.5 rebounds per game last season to 4.3 this year can be attributed to not playing power forward as much anything.

He is shooting 32.7 percent from 3-point range, attempting just more than three shots from beyond the arc per game, so his game is more diverse. But he needs to attack the paint more, which is what he does best.

Sure, Gordon scored 30 points against the Grizzlies, but just four came in the paint. His jump shots were falling against Memphis, but they will not all the time, as evidenced last night.

Evan Fournier‘s absence because of injury has forced Gordon to be more aggressive offensively. Evan Fournier leads the team with 17.8 points per game. With him out, Gordon has to be one of the focal points of the offense, like against the Grizzlies. But he did not find his place against the Hornets.

That inconsistency prevents Gordon from reaching the next level.

He has all the tools to be a star. But he needs to string solid performances together to prove he is ready to play at small forward for good and help carry the Magic to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

At least the Magic may need to be willing to trust him more to take a larger role offensively more consistently. And see what their fourth overall selection from 2014 can do.

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