Letters to the Editor
For someone who harps on Aaron Gordon’s supposed inconsistency as much as [James] Kelley does in his article [“Column: Gordon’s choice is an obvious one,” March 31], it is perplexing how inconsistent his arguments are. He brazenly declares that “It’s obvious that Gordon should stay in school for another year and not enter the NBA Draft.” Kelley posits the argument that “if [Gordon] had a remotely consistent offensive game, then Arizona would be in the Final Four.” As Pac-12 Player of the Year, most would take Nick Johnson to be the model of consistency. He shot 45 percent from the field or better in 19 of 38 games this season. But what of the supposedly inconsistent Gordon? He only shot 45 percent or better in 20 of 38 games. Tragically inconsistent.
His example to prove Gordon isn’t ready is odd because the Elite Eight game was the only NCAA Tournament game in which Gordon shot poorly. Would we have seen this same article if Arizona’s season ended against San Diego State when Gordon shot 7-for-9? Or would we have seen an article proclaiming him as a surefire superstar? It’s doubtful. That’s because it’s ridiculous to use one game to define a player as Kelley tries to do with Gordon. It’s absolutely absurd to suggest that the margin between Gordon’s NBA readiness and imminent failure is a mere two points scored in an Elite Eight Game.
He also takes Gordon to task because “if it’s not a dunk, then there’s very little chance he can score — generally.” Gordon is frequently dunking on SportsCenter, so this is probably true, right? Actually, 212 of the 470 points (45.1 percent) that Gordon scored this year came away from the rim on jumpers or free throws according to data on hoop-math.com. Hmmm, that seems like a higher probability than the “very little chance” that Kelley arbitrarily assigned.
But let’s say Kelley is right about Gordon. How should he improve? Kelley states that [head coach] Sean Miller and Gordon himself have said that Gordon hits his jumpers in practice. It’s just mental. He opines that Gordon wouldn’t be able to correct this in the NBA. “If he stays in college, he can work on his shooting during the off-season and in practices.” Whew. I had no idea that the NBA banned training in the off-season, and it seems like all those practices with Coach Miller where he hits all those free throws really helped Gordon this year. Practice and off-season work. Exclusive to college. Got it.
Kelley also hypothesizes that “if [Gordon] goes to the NBA, struggles and gets sent to the D-League, that would be devastating to his self-esteem.” So this must be a pretty common occurrence, huh? Gordon is a projected lottery pick by ESPN, Sports Illustrated and DraftExpress. Well, of the 42 lottery picks selected over the past three NBA drafts, only FIVE have spent time in the D-League. It seems like Gordon’s self-esteem isn’t in as much danger as our resident psychologist, Mr. Kelley, would make it out to be.
Finally, Kelley chooses to use former UA stars Derrick Williams and Ka’Deem Carey to show us why Gordon should stay in school. He believes that Gordon needs to stay to improve his shooting in a sophomore season. Something to the tune of improving his 3-point shooting by 31.8 percent and his free-throw shooting by 6.5 percent would certainly be lauded. Those numbers just so happen to represent the jump Williams had from his freshman to sophomore year. And that extra year sure made Williams ready, didn’t it? As for Carey, who Kelley lauds for staying and accruing UA records, well, he left for the NFL draft at the first chance he had to do so, but Kelley doesn’t think Gordon should exercise his right to leave for the NBA in the same way. It’s not as though our Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and newly minted owner of UA’s freshman rebounding record is short on accolades, either.
He ends by proclaiming that “If Gordon leaves right now, his UA career will be a sad tale of what could have been.” So is that it or is it one of those other overly-simplistic reasons? Tell us what’s best for him. Kelley doesn’t substantiate his sweeping generalizations and just wants Gordon to forgo the NBA so we get another exciting year of “Lob Pueblo” in McKale Center. How exactly will staying in school help Aaron Gordon, the person? Kelley never gives us a legitimate answer. If Gordon chooses to stay, it will be because he wants to take another shot at winning a championship and not for any of the misguided reasons Kelley provides. Gordon simply doesn’t owe us or need us anymore.
— Max Rodriguez