Both of these prospects in this matchup fit the mold of a "tweener," a player that can play multiple positions on the floor and succeed at it. How would Aaron Gordon look alongside Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Al Jefferson in the starting lineup? Is T.J. Warren just what the Hornets need with a creator in the second unit? All of these questions, and more, will be answered.
As always, I am joined by James Plowright of TheLotteryMafia.com to chat back-and-forth on draft prospects. Sit back, and enjoy!
Evan: In today's matchup, we have Aaron Gordon vs. T.J. Warren. First, lets talk about Gordon.
What's your overall thoughts on this athletic freak from Arizona?
James: I really like Gordon, I just hope people accept him for what he is and don't place unfair Blake Griffin-like expectations on him. Sure, he is athletic and looks a little similar, but he is a totally different player. Gordon will make a living on his defense and hustle. He is nowhere near the offensive player that Blake was when entering the league.
I don't see Gordon as a "tweener." I see him as a versatile player who is able to defend both forward positions and some shooting guards. He has a really high basketball IQ on both ends of the floor. Gordon has a great feel when to help off his man and how to fit within a defensive system.
Despite Gordon being the most athletic power forward in the Draft Express' database (39" vertical), Gordon isn't a great shot blocker. He has a fairly average wingspan that limits his reach.
On the offensive side, Gordon has some good natural instincts. He does a good job using his speed and athleticism to draw fouls. The downside is he shoots just 42 percent on his free throws.
Not only can he score himself, but he is unselfish and always willing to make the extra pass.
Despite shooting so badly from three free throw line and poorly off pull ups, Gordon shot surprisingly well from three (36 percent), which gives some hope he can develop his jumper to a respectable level. (On only 45 three-point attempts, however - Ben)
The big question, though, is if he drops to nine. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported that Danny Ainge had "locked in" on Gordon for the sixth pick.
Also, could Gordon and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist co-exist on the same roster?
Evan: How would Gordon fit in Charlotte overall? One, alongside MKG, and two alongside Al Jefferson if he plays some power forward.
How's his overall fit with the Hornets, too?
James: It certainly isn't the best fit in the world. MKG and Gordon would not be able to spend that long on the floor together, due to spacing issues. Can you imagine the end of games? Teams would simply play "hack a Gordon/MKG" to try and get the ball back. However, Gordon's upside (if he gets a reliable jump shot) is so great I believe you would have to take the chance on him. I would have them both on the roster for a year and see how each of them develop over the year, I think it would be a "lets wait and see" kind of approach to things.
Gordon's fit next to Al at power forward is pretty exciting on the defensive end, though. Gordon would be able to make up for some of Al's slow paced pick-and-roll defense. He would fit well into Steve Clifford's defensive system.
If he was drafted, I would see the team waiving goodbye to Josh McRoberts; That (understandably so) would scare some Charlotte fans.
For the first year, I could see Gordon playing 20 minutes per game, but playing very sparsely with MKG.
One thing is for sure, if Gordon did end up in Charlotte, an upgrade in spacing at the shooting guard position would be a must.
Evan: I have to say, it is enticing to have a roster with Gordon, Kidd-Gilchrist and Jefferson all on it. Gordon is great in transition and would start offensive breaks fast for this usually slow-paced Hornets team.
Also, what is really underestimated in Gordon's game is his defense. When he was on the court, Arizona's defensive rating was only 88.6 points per 100 possessions. That is better than Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker by relatively big margins.
From a defensive perspective, this fit is great.
If we do draft Gordon, do you expect us to dump MKG for a lotto pick? That is certainly interesting.
Also, do you see Gordon as a 3 or 4 in the NBA?
James: I am not sure Clifford really buys into fast breaks points being a key to winning, we ranked 25th in the league last year because we would rather slow it down and get Al the ball in the post. Also, if you look at the two teams in the NBA finals they are not particularly good fast break teams, Miami rank 17th and San Antonio 14th, I just don't think it is a part of the game Clifford really values.
His defense is fantastic. Gordon projects to be on a similar level as MKG, in terms of defense.
I don't think Charlotte would panic or make any immediate deals. Like I previously mentioned, I think we would take both into training camp and see how they do. I believe Clifford has total confidence in Price to improve MKG's jump shot, so I don't see them trading him without at least seeing the results of his work this off-season. The smart thing would be to wait and see, then, if it becomes apparent they cannot coexist, you can look to move one of them later in the year.
It depends which roster he lands on, but for the Hornets I would see him playing power forward. He would come off the bench behind Cody Zeller.
Evan: Surprising. You wouldn't think Gordon starts?
Personally, I see Gordon starting above Zeller, if we draft him. Sure, we lose some size down-low, but I value Gordon's defensive potential (and offensive, too, down the road) and his explosiveness over what Zeller currently offers to the team.
James: We all thought Zeller would start last year, but Clifford was not having any of that. I think the spot would be open for whoever played better in camp, but I feel Zeller's familiarity with the system, and better jump shot, would give him a head start.
In the long run, I agree Gordon would be the starter going forward, but not next year. Whoever ends the game is more important.
Evan: Having a defender like Gordon, who can guard 1-5 in my opinion (like he did at Arizona), is an asset that should be starting right away.
Anyways, we'll see who'd win that battle if Gordon ends up in Charlotte.
From an analytics perspective, Gordon's finishing touch at the rim is spectacular, 72.9%. That's better than any big in this class. A five-tool player like Gordon would fit perfectly in Charlotte.
Any closing thoughts on Gordon, before we get into T.J. Warren?
James: I wouldn't be opposed to starting Gordon, I just reckon that is what Clifford would do. I also don't see him guarding many fives (yet) in the NBA. He simply doesn't have the upper or lower body strength just yet.
Anyway, lets move on!
I am going to start with a statistic that will surprise a lot of people: T.J. Warren has the same max vertical as MKG at the draft combine. Now, personally, I don't really rate the combine stats too much, I prefer to go off what I see. Someone having athleticism and knowing how to use it are two totally different things.
The big knock on Warren and his ability to fit in Charlotte is his jump shot; he shot just 27 percent from three during his sophomore season.
However, I have some interesting stats that suggest Warren is more of a "streaky" shooter than a bad one.
In his freshman year he actually shot 52 percent from deep with just one attempt per game. At this point he was simply part of a system, playing second fiddle to Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie. He was able to pick his spots and knock down the open shots.
In his sophomore season Warren was the focal point of the offense and teams often sent two-plus defenders at him. Combine this with NC State's sub-par guard play and you can see why Warren may have had to take a large number of bad shots from deep.
Also, worth noting, in 17 games between January-March this year Warren shot 42 percent from deep. Again, this suggests Warren can shoot the ball at an efficient clip for certain periods of time.
His shooting mechanics are slightly odd. He brings the ball down to his hip before shooting and appears to have a slightly "flicky" motion. This means that when he tries to force shots up off-balance, he really struggles to stay consistent.
Do those numbers surprise you at all?
Evan: Those numbers pretty much define what you said of Warren: He's streaky.
I've seen some Hornets fans clamoring for Warren and saying he might be the best of this entire class. I don't know if that's just home state bias, but he did show flashes of stardom at NC State. He fits what Charlotte is looking for with a need on the wing, and Warren could be a great partner alongside Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson.
How do you see Warren fitting with the Hornets, if selected at No. 9?
James: I see it being very unlikely Warren will be the best player in the draft class due, to his defensive deficiencies. The likes of Wiggins, Gordon and Vonleh all have the potential to be complete two-way players, more so than Warren.
I could see Warren fitting in well as a sixth man type scorer for Charlotte. I think him and MKG could be a dangerous offense/defense punch, it could be pretty exciting.
Warren would also thrive off Al posting-up. He has a fantastic ability to move off the ball and would get numerous baskets cutting to the rim with the other team's defense focused on Jefferson. If we did add him at the three, it would mean we would have to look to improve our outside shooting at either the two or the four, as Warren isn't going to be killing teams from deep.
I will point out that one of Warren's strengths is offensive rebounding (ranks 5th in the DX Top 100) would be nullified here. Clifford prefers his team getting back to stop transition baskets rather than secondary possessions.
Would this mean you would be limiting Warren's ability to affect the game? Overall, he needs to try and find ways to affect the game, apart from scoring.
Evan: A good thing in Warren's arsenal: he's always in scoring mode. Like you said, he'd fit in here perfectly as a sixth man who drives the second unit on runs. His 25-plus points per game obviously wasn't a fluke playing in the ACC, so expect his offensive production to transfer over in some capacity.
From an analytics point of view, Warren's defense is absolutely horrifying. His defensive rating of 103.6 points allowed per 100 possessions is a thing that will keep Warren off the court for long stretches of games.
I see him as a situational wing who's brought in to create offense -- that screams maybe future sixth man of the year if he develops, though.
Also, his usage percentage was sky-high compared to other top players in this draft class at 35.5 percent. That means he used that much percent of the offense's possessions.
His player efficiency rating (PER) also took a big bump into the elite level with it being 31.3.
What's your thoughts on these analytical numbers, James?
James: Warren's defensive rating doesn't surprise me. He really needs to work on that end of the floor.
I appreciate that Warren had a very high usage percentage, but this will also have worked against him. Opposing teams will have created their entire game plan against him, and he still produced, which suggests he would be able to carry an NBA second unit.
Overall, I think we largely agree on Warren, we both see him as a sixth-man scorer who will be relatively successful in the league.