Followers of the NBA and the All Star Game would recall the gravity defying and jaw dropping exploits of the duo of Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon at the 2016 Slam Dunk competition. As the former has gone on to make two All Star Game appearances in 2021 and 2022, the latter seems to be working hard at securing his first nod, and this season might just be it.
Near the midway point of the 2022/23 campaign, Gordon’s averaging 16.8 points per game on a career-high 59% shooting. On two-pointers, that number skyrockets to almost 66%.
On a bigger market team with a greater fanbase, there’s little doubt that the Denver Nuggets forward would have garnered greater popularity in All-Star voting to date. Despite his excellent form this season, the 27-year-old fails to feature in the top ten frontcourt players after the second return of fan voting.
But Gordon isn’t the only high lottery pick to revolutionize his career and reputation in recent times. From underwhelming talent on a battling team to key contributor on a championship contender, the similarities between Gordon and another Western Conference forward continue to align.
Gordon's Resurgence Mirrors Wiggins' Trajectory
Andrew Wiggins was taken with the first overall pick in 2014, while Gordon went three selections later at number four. The athleticism of both players was eye-popping, but their capacity to harness that into winning basketball was always a question mark. Having each made just one postseason appearance in their first seven seasons, Gordon and Wiggins were your typical “empty numbers on a bad team” kind of players.
It’s amazing what a solid organization and superstar teammate can do for a player, though. After joining the Warriors during the 2019–20 season, the last three years have now represented the most efficient part of Wiggins’ career. Without the pressure of being the first or second option offensively, he can now go about prioritizing an off-ball role and the defensive side of the ball.
That description can now be attributed to Gordon as well as Wiggins. After being dealt to the Denver Nuggets, the former Arizona product has proven to be a steady presence for Mike Malone, particularly given the injury uncertainty of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
With the Nuggets as the first seed in the West and Gordon putting up career-high numbers, his name has rightfully joined the All-Star discussion. The 27-year-old is averaging 16.8 points per game on an insane 59% shooting, including a much-improved 37.6% from three-point range. He’s also adding 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists, along with taking responsibility for the opposition’s best wings on a nightly basis.
Is it AG's time to All-Star Status?
The resurgence of Gordon also nods to the legacy of back-to-back regular season MVP, Nikola Jokic. Taking a relatively undesirable player on poor-value contract and contributing into making them buy into a lesser role to fully emerge into their own is a testament to Serb's greatness. That’s what ultimately differentiates him from other superstars who are predicated on their own numbers.
To wrap up, Gordon’s All-Star hopes are contingent on how opposing coaches view that approach. There are gaudier numbers within the Western Conference ranks, but Gordon’s case resides in how he’s impacted winning for the No. 1 team in the West while playing within himself.