Out of the three “core players” of the Rob Hennigan era of Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, Gordon had the most disappointing time with the Orlando Magic.
Whether it was his exit or never becoming the star Orlando needed, Gordon left a sour taste in fans’ mouths. His jaw-dropping athleticism and talent never seemed to crystalize or coalesce in a way that propelled him or his team forward.
For every step forward and understanding of his role or what he could be, there was seemingly a huge step back. Whether that step back was an injury or his play stagnating in frustrating ways. Gordon never took the leap the team needed and yet still tantalized enough to make everyone believe.
Even in a year where it was primed for Gordon to step up his play, he continued to coast through the season, which is part of the reason he is no longer with the team.
Aaron Gordon was primed to break out as a star, but his potential petered out as the Orlando Magic stagnated. And the team decided to move on.
As the whole team suffered from injuries throughout the 2021 season, Gordon also dealt with his injuries, only playing 25 out of the possible 45 games with the Magic. He stated the season, still healing his hamstring from the bubble, and ended up spraining his ankle during this season.
However, even when he was healthy, he never took the leap the fans have been waiting for years.
Throughout his tenure with Orlando, he averaged 12.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. He also played close to elite defense during his time with the Magic.
It was the 2018 season where Gordon created optimism that could leap to stardom, where he averaged 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. While he did not shoot the ball efficiently by shooting 43.4-percent from the field and 33.6-percent from beyond the arc, the pieces seemed there for Gordon to leap.
Unfortunately, that never happened as Gordon was never able to take his game to the next level.
This season Gordon averaged 14.6 points per game on a career-high 37.5-percent from three and 6.6 rebounds per game. To give Gordon credit, a career-high in 4.2 assists per game showed his playmaking chops. The Magic used Gordon as a backup point guard for parts of the season as the team was thin at the position with injuries.
There can be an argument Gordon has never played in the right role, but given the chance to be the player he wanted to be with the ball in his hands, he did not take over games and be the player some people thought he could become.
His exit from Orlando was nothing pretty either. He made his trade request public once it was leaked that he wanted a trade. It even drew comparisons to the Dwight Howard drama from 2012.
Then once he was traded, he made comments that he can finally go all out and play 100-percent, which brings the question of when did Gordon stop trying to be his best.
Undoubtedly, playing with the Denver Nuggets with the likely MVP in Nikola Jokic and gifted offensive players in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, Aaron Gordon is closer to playing his preferred role.
With the Nuggets, Gordon averaged 10.2 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per game with a 54.1-percent effective field goal percentage. Playing off the ball and getting more open shots helped Gordon’s production.
He played well in the playoff series with the Portland Trail Blazers averaging 12.5 points per game and a 52.5-percent effective field goal percentage. His defense on Damian Lillard — Lillard scored 26 points on 9-for-22 shooting in 12.5 minutes matched up together — and his big 3-pointer at the end of Game 6 were clear signs of his fit with the Nuggets.
Regardless of his exit, the Magic got an outstanding return for Aaron Gordon as they were able to get Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and a 2025 first-round pick.
Harris has proven to be a good defender and an outstanding locker room veteran. And Hampton was able to show what he can do, winning rookie of the month, averaging 16 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. The future is bright, although the end was bleak.
In the end, there was nothing spectacular about Gordon’s time with the Magic other than the occasional 40-point game and his dunk contests, but he was never able to bring it together in his time with the Magic.
For this season, it was nothing special from his injuries and disappointing play, but understanding no one can take full blame for this season.