Arizona Basketball

Aaron Gordon Arizona Wildcats’ 12th NBA draft lottery selection

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Aaron Gordon is the 12th lottery pick for Arizona (ESPN screen shot)

Aaron Gordon is the 12th lottery pick for Arizona (ESPN screen shot)

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Former Arizona Wildcats forward Aaron Gordon, the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Year, became Arizona’s 12th lottery pick with his fourth-overall pick in the first round by the Orlando Magic tonight.

“We liked Aaron and we felt he was the right fit for us at this particular time in the evolution of our team,” Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan said in a press conference tonight. “Aaron all along really started to gain momentum in our (front) office as we started to learn more about him.”

Gordon, 6’9″ and 210 pounds, becomes Arizona’s second lottery pick in the last three years and Sean Miller’s second since the coach came to Tucson in 2009. Derrick Williams was the second overall pick by Minnesota in the 2011 draft.

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Gordon also becomes the fourth Arizona player to be selected among the first five picks in the draft. The list:

Mike Bibby, No. 2, 1998, Vancouver
Derrick Williams, No. 2, 2011, Minnesota
Sean Elliott, No. 3, 1989, San Antonio
Aaron Gordon, No. 4, 2014, Orlando

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ARIZONA WILDCATS FIRST ROUND PICKS
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Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times is not a fan of Orlando’s pick

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Gordon follows Solomon Hill (No. 23 pick overall by Indiana last year) as an Arizona first-round pick taken in consecutive years.

Something to look forward to next year, when as many as four Arizona Wildcats can be drafted, including in the first round: Arizona has experienced only one time in which it had a first-round pick in three straight years. That was in 1993-95 with Chris Mills (1993, 22nd pick, Cleveland), Khalid Reeves (1994, 12th pick, Miami) and Damon Stoudamire (1995, 7th pick, Toronto) taken in succession.

The Wildcats will possibly lose Stanley Johnson, Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to the NBA after the 2014-15 season.

Gordon told ESPN that he is not surprised Orlando took him with the No. 4 pick.

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“I had a really good workout when I went to Orlando,” he said. “I was shooting the ball. I did a lot of things they didn’t think I could do previously … I’m just happy. I’m just extremely happy.”

ESPN’s analysts Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons compared Gordon to Shawn Marion (athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions), Kwahi Leonard (overcoming doubts of his shooting ability) and Russell Westbrook (standing out despite not having a defined position coming out of UCLA).

Rose compared Gordon to Marion while Simmons said his development reminds him of Leonard and Westbrook.

Another ESPN analyst, Jay Bilas, said while Gordon is questionable with his shooting (both on the court and at the free-throw line) he is a “world-class athlete”.

“That’s where his upside lies,” Bilas said about Gordon’s athleticism. “That’s why Orlando likes him … boy is he an elite defender. He can guard a point guard or a power forward.

“The question about him is where is he going to play? He is a tweener.”

Gordon started at small forward at Arizona for most of the season. After Brandon Ashley went down with his season-ending foot injury midway through the Pac-12 season, Gordon shifted often to power forward.

Another significant question is Gordon’s free-throw shooting (only 42 percent at Arizona) and that question was presented to Hennigan tonight.

“Aaron Gordon is an intelligent individual who really understands the game and has awareness where his strengths lie and the areas where he needs to improve,” Hennigan said. “He’ll tell you he’s excited about the challenge to do that (improve his free-throw shooting).”

Gordon’s teammate, Nick Johnson, is expected to be taken in the second round later tonight.

Aaron Gordon receives congratulations from NBA commissioner Adam Silver (ESPN screen shot)

Aaron Gordon receives congratulations from NBA commissioner Adam Silver (ESPN screen shot)

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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