The NBA slam dunk contest is still four months away. But it’s not too early for Aaron Gordon to start practicing his creative slams in advance of the contest (if he even chooses to participate this year).
Even in the middle of a game.
With his Orlando Magic facing off against the Miami Heat on Monday night, Gordon drove past the much smaller Goran Dragic. With the point guard on his back and not quite enough distance on his jump to get to the hole, Gordon changed course.
He went full Tracy McGrady and threw himself an alley-oop off the glass.
In a single sequence earlier in the contest, Gordon rejected a Dion Waiters layup attempt then ran the floor to be rewarded with a dime from Elfrid Payton for a mammoth slam that ended with Gordon’s introducing Kelly Olynyk to his testicular region.
Due to a glut of big men on the roster last season, Gordon was forced into playing almost strictly at small forward, where his subpar jumper muddled the team’s spacing and added an extra degree of scoring difficulty for him and his teammates.
But with Serge Ibaka gone, Gordon is entrenched in the starting power forward role this season, where he has the strength to battle with the big boys but nearly unmatched speed and quickness for the position. He has the potential to be a sort of power forward version of Andre Iguodala—not a primary playmaker or ball-handler, but a strong, versatile defender who can be an expert finisher and make plays for teammates on offense with good vision and the ever-present threat of his darting to the hole.
Though he shot poorly on opening night (4-of-13), he still managed to stuff the stat sheet in flashing that potential: 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and just one turnover, helping his team to a surprising 116-109 win.
Unfortunately for dunk contest lovers out there, if Aaron Gordon keeps this up, he might be too good of a player to appear in the slam-off again come February, as players tend to forgo the event once they reach a certain status.
Here’s to hoping he lives up to his potential and still feels the need to finally take home the trophy he was robbed of two seasons ago.