Aaron Gordon is the central figure to the Orlando Magic’s 2021 season

Aaron Gordon has been a mystery to unlock his potential. The 2021 season will be a big one for the Orlando Magic forward, one way or another. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Gordon has been a mystery to unlock his potential. The 2021 season will be a big one for the Orlando Magic forward, one way or another. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

One way or another, all eyes are on Aaron Gordon as the Orlando Magic try to map out their future and map out a way to win in 2021 without Jonathan Isaac.

Aaron Gordon has been busy during the last few weeks.

Followers spotted him at a get out the vote event alongside Desmond Meade outside the Amway Center as early voting continues — through Sunday! — inside the Orlando Magic’s home arena.

He has also been getting into milk dunking contests with Andre Drummond.


Such is life in the offseason. And, yes, if you are asking, Aaron Gordon has continued to work on his game. He posted some video on Instagram of him getting a workout in at a local gym a few weeks ago. Most of that still goes on without a camera in his face.

Now that there appears to be a finish line for the start of the next season, players will be hitting overdrive to get ready for the season. And all eyes are turning more seriously to the offseason.

For the Orlando Magic, that attention is squarely on Gordon. He seems to know it, trying to brush off talks yet again of trade rumors. It feels like Gordon, at just 25 years old and with two more years left on a reasonable and front-loaded contract, is the Magic’s most tradeable asset.

It feels like there is a team out there that will convince themselves that Gordon can reach the star potential he has struggled to reach in Orlando or believes he can fit into a role with their team that maximizes him in a way Orlando cannot.

In other words, it is hard to give up completely on a player so young that has shown so much promise even in six years already in the NBA. Gordon still has some value on the market.

He also still has value to the Magic.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

With Jonathan Isaac out for the season, the team suddenly needs Aaron Gordon and his 14.4 points per game and defensive presence to help fill the void. After all, the Magic themselves have to believe his 2020 injury-filled season was the anomaly and just hiccup on his continued ascendance.

This is at the heart of the questions facing Gordon this season. This is the heart of every question everyone has for Gordon this season — whether the Magic trade him or not.

Regardless of where he starts next year, all eyes are on Gordon during this 2021 season as he tries to bounce back from his frustrating season. And those eyes will be focused more on him if the Magic decide to retain him for next season.

This is his chance to prove where he belongs in this league and who he is as a player. There will be no more excuses. No more chances for setbacks or struggles to figure things out.

Gordon will set his path for the rest of his career during the course of the 2021 season. His future is on the line in the next 70-plus games.

His future with the Magic is certainly in focus even before the season begins. His future with the team even for the next two months is seriously in doubt.

The Magic are getting set to make a long-term investment in Jonathan Isaac. There are still questions about how the two fit together. But Isaac is out for the 2021 season. And that changes the calculation

With Isaac not in the lineup, Gordon would have all the opportunity to show just how good he could be and just where he might fit into the Magic’s plans — or elsewhere.

The only thing that matters on that front is not Gordon’s individual production. It is fair to assume he can bounce back to his 2019 levels and average around 16 points per game again. If he can pick up his play from where he was after the All-Star Break, he could become a more versatile weapon.

Remember, now fully healthy, Gordon averaged 15.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game while shooting 47.7-percent from the floor after the All-Star Break. While he still shot worse than 30-percent from beyond the arc.

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  • In four games inside the NBA Campus after the season resumed, Gordon averaged 15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 51.2-percent from the floor and 45.5-percent from beyond the arc.

    These are both small sample sizes. But encouraging of what a healthy Gordon could do.

    Gordon has shown limited stretches of All-Star-level play. The question has always been about sustaining it for an entire season.

    The Magic have literally been waiting on it. And his struggles throughout the season were one of the major contributors to the team’s disappointing outcome.

    It has left the Magic at a crossroads.

    For now, Gordon is preparing and talking like he will have this opportunity this season. And even those outside of the Magic’s orbit still see promise in him. He was on with Jalen and Jacobi last week to discuss his offseason and some of the ad campaigns he is pushing right now — including the aforementioned milk dunking contest with Drummond.

    There is still an optimistic outlook for the 2021 season. The Magic are not giving up on their 2021 season and still have high expectations for themselves.

    "“I think all the recognition comes with winning. I think the more that we win, the more people pay attention. I think we can take that leap instead of just scraping by. I think if we have a hotter start we can probably get to fourth or fifth, surprise somebody in the first round and just go from there.”"

    The optimism of a new season never wanes.

    The Magic objectively had an underperforming season in 2020. They entered last year with the same hopes and expectations they would compete for the 4-seed and continue their growth.

    As Gordon said, they got off to a poor start as they struggled to find that footing despite the team familiarity. And the Magic were chasing themselves the rest of the season.

    Everyone expected Gordon to make the mythical star leap to get the team into that contention spot. After his 2019 Playoff performance, it certainly looked like Gordon could reach another level.

    Seeing him fall short of that was frustrating. And the team was frustrating partly for that reason.

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    Gordon’s struggles to find his footing throughout the season were reminiscent of the team’s struggles to get their footing. Gordon is still a barometer for the Magic’s offense. When he is rolling, the team is usually performing well. When he is struggling to find his shot or forcing his game too much, the team is usually floundering.

    All of that attention will be ramped up this season.

    If Gordon remains on the team, the Magic will only go as far as his production will take them. Their margin for error without Isaac will be very small. A player like Gordon will be absolutely vital to the Magic even matching last year’s playoff level — especially with an Eastern Conference that looks improved beneath them.

    The reality though is that even that might not be enough for Gordon to secure a long-term future. It all may just be about increasing his value and perception around the league for when the Magic inevitably trade him and hand the power forward spot to Isaac.

    Working against Gordon the entire season is the thought that he cannot pair well with the Magic’s prized young forward. At this point, even with the ACL injury, it seems inevitable the Magic will choose Isaac to build around.

    Gordon’s time might be ticking anyway. And with a season that could be a “throwaway season” because of Isaac’s injury, there may be no reason to delay dealing Gordon if that is the team’s ultimate conclusion.

    If that happens before the season, there is nothing Gordon can do. Even in his interview on Jalen & Jacoby, Gordon seems to acknowledge this as he tries to brush it aside. He wants to focus on helping the team he is currently on.

    If Gordon remains on the Magic, then all the pressure and attention will be on him to deliver in a way that is sustainable and supportive.

    The one thing he is absolutely right on is that a players’ value both on and off the court changes when the team wins. Gordon will have to do everything he can to increase his own value by helping his team win.

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    And if he stays on the Magic, certainly all eyes will be on him to deliver.