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Key Matchup: Aaron Gordon vs. Draymond Green and Kevin Durant

Whether Steph Curry sits or not, the Warriors need to stop the Magic’s best player, Aaron Gordon. It’s up to Draymond Green and Kevin Durant.

2017 NBA Finals - Game Five Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Orlando Magic are not supposed to be good. And while it’s too soon to label certain teams this early in the season, the Magic are proving the haters wrong and playing some of their best ball in years. I’m surprised they’ve won over three games thus far, but their record is 8-5.

Their record is indicative of three things:

  1. Frank Vogel, their new coach, is making a positive difference.
  2. They’ve played five potential playoff teams and play in the weak eastern conference.
  3. Aaron Gordon, Orlando’s young hybrid-forward learned how to shoot. I’ll focus on this point.

What happened to Aaron Gordon and why it’s important

Gordon is a career 31.3% shooter from beyond the arc. This year, he’s hitting 55.3% of his threes and LEADING the NBA in that percentage. Gordon is also averaging 4.9 three attempts per 36 minutes, nearly a whole three-point attempt more than last year. That’s CRAZY. I do not expect him to keep up. However, as long as he’s hitting those shots, the Warriors will need to do everything they can to contest them.

Gordon’s surge is important because they rest of the Magic are also shooting better than expected. Mike Cali breaks it down in his article yesterday for SB Nation’s Orlando Pinstripe Post. Orlando’s offense is legitimate.

The Warriors lead the league in three-point shooting at 41.5 percent. The Magic are second in the league at 40.6 percent.

The Warriors have a pace of 104.7 possessions per game, fifth fastest in the league. The Magic are right behind them at 103.9.

The Warriors have the best offense in the league, averaging 116.5 points per 100 possessions. The Magic, having dropped off somewhat after rough offensive outings against the Bulls and Celtics, are averaging 106.9 points per 100 possessions, tied for seventh best in the league.

Cali’s point is that the Magic are playing the Warriors’ style and Gordon isn’t doing this alone. The Magic have five other players shooting above 40% from three: Mario Hezonja (47.1%), Evan Fournier (43.8%), Marreese Speights (lol, 43.2%), Nikola Vusevic (40.4%), and Jonathan Simmons (40%). Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade that whole group of Magic players for Patrick McCaw, but the numbers are impressive.

The Magic are winning because they are scorching-hot from behind the arc. The Warriors will need to play 48 minutes of strong defense and prevent easy three-point looks, especially from Gordon.

Trust in Draymond Green and Kevin Durant

It’s unclear who will start the game guarding Aaron Gordon because we do not yet know if Steph Curry is in or out. If Curry plays, maybe Jonathan Simmons guards him. If Curry is out, maybe Simmons guards Thompson. Gordon will likeley guard Durant or Green, but it’s likely that Green will start guarding Gordon as they’ll both be at power forward.

So we have the reigning Finals MVP and the 2016-2017 Defensive Player of the Year guarding Aaron Gordon for most of the game. Am I concerned? Not at all. I think the Warriors win by 30. But anyone shooting the ball like Gordon (and the rest of the Magic) is a problem. On the chance he’s hitting his shots, we could be in for a close game. Remember the Pistons game? Perimeter defense is to this game what turnovers meant then. Enjoy the game and comment below!

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