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Aaron Gordon: The Denver Nuggets Rock

Before Saturday’s win against the Jazz, Michael Malone described Aaron Gordon as rock steady. He’s proven this season that he’s as reliable as they come.

Utah Jazz v Denver Nuggets Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Before Saturday’s game against the Utah Jazz, I asked Michael Malone what he’s seen from Aaron Gordon this season and he gave a glowing review, “Aaron’s been great, I’m glad you’re bringing him up. I think we talk so much about Nikola, rightfully so, and Jamal — his return to play and the game he’s coming off of in Portland, but Aaron has just been rock steady. Playing great basketball, efficient basketball. One thing I’ll say about Aaron is what I’m probably most proud of him for is he hasn’t fought it. Last season we didn’t have Michael and Jamal, and we have some talented offensive players back and Aaron hasn’t fought the touches, the play calls. If I’m not calling his number he’s not pouting, he’s not moaning ‘I’m not getting enough play calls.’ He’s finding ways to impact the game, rebounding, running, getting big at the rim, posting up — that’s why all those numbers are so high. He’s a real mellow guy, hasn’t fought anything, is buying in. We just talked about being selfless, I think Aaron is also the definition of that. I’m out there playing with these guys, let me do my job to help them. I always tell the guys, players ask what are you giving me? I want my plays, I want my touches. Well my retro would be what are you giving back to the game, back to your teammates. Aaron is a great example of a guy who’s really giving back a lot, so I’m proud of him.”

It wouldn’t be an understatement to call Aaron Gordon the rock of the Nuggets. He has been one of the most consistent players for them not only this season, but also last. Glue guys have always been important pieces to contenders, and that’s what AG brings to the table — an all-around game and an adaptable mindset, a want to fill in however he can.

He’s one of Denver’s most capable defenders, especially bigger wings or forwards. A talking point when he was first acquired back in the 2020-21 season was how good he was at guarding the likes of Luka Doncic who has shot 34.2% from the field against the Nuggets since Gordon was acquired and in games when Gordon has played. In those 4 contests, Luka Doncic only averages 20.5 points per game and Aaron Gordon is a big part of that with his ability to move with guys while still being a physically imposing defender.

The Nuggets at their best will need Aaron Gordon to be a versatile and impactful defender, and with him on the floor the Nuggets defense is only allowing 0.885 points per possession — 72nd percentile in the league, per Synergy Sports. There are times where he doesn’t always make the perfect rotation, and the Nuggets likely need better play on that end from him. However, when he’s locked in he is a disruptive defender who can guard anyone on the floor. He’s never shied away from the challenge of guarding elite talent and will continue to be one of Denver’s go-to defenders.

Where he’s really making his mark this season is the other end of the floor though. He has career highs across the board for efficiency, he is currently shooting 61.3% from the floor, 38.4% from beyond the arc, and is taking 51.1% of his shots at the rim so far this season, per basketball-reference.com. Even though he isn’t getting as many calls from Malone this season, this is the best he has looked in Denver’s system.

I asked what gave him the ease of mind to still find his own within the flow of the offense despite that and he said, “It’s such an unselfish basketball team. It’s unselfish you know? If you’re in the right spot and you’re open, they’re going to hit you. We play a good brand of basketball here, it’s the right way, so that’s how I like to play and I just get in where I fit in.”

He continued by saying, “It’s just a build up [of his time in Denver]. You know, I’m just looking to keep going up.” No one within the organization has had anything but good to say about Aaron Gordon and how he’s played. He’s known as a cool, calm, and collected guy who is reliable as all get out. Nikola Jokic has said he loves playing alongside him, “He’s always in the right places.” Joker said after Saturday’s win against the Utah Jazz.

The goal for the Nuggets before the season was to win a title and that hasn’t changed. Aaron knows that and when asked what about this season felt different he smiled and said, “We got our squad back. Even though Mike’s not back all the way, I feel like we at least have a good shot at the title this year.” And for that to be a reality, the Nuggets will have to build on the rock solid foundation provided by Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokic this season and last. With Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back, they have an opportunity to put the 2022-23 Denver Nuggets in the history books.