Heading into his fourth season, Aaron Gordon still needs to improve upon a few aspects of his game for the Orlando Magic to reach their potential.Aaron Gordon may be facing the biggest offseason of his career. He is entering the later stages of his rookie contract and he should be eyeing a big extension. If he wants to cash in, he needs to work on a handful of things this summer to improve his game. With a big contract looming, Gordon needs to prove he is a necessity to the Orlando Magic’s new front office. It appears the team is trying to build an identity. Gordon needs to prove he can fit that mold. In his second season under coach Frank Vogel, Gordon should continue his elite-level defensive play. He has already established his trust and strength on that end. The work for Gordon must come on the offensive side of the ball. Whether it be shooting or ball-handling, Gordon needs to become a consistent offensive threat. Last season, Gordon did take some nice improvements on offense. He shot better from mid-range and found his groove later in the season. Sadly, Orlando decided to force Gordon into a position where he was simply not comfortable in for most of the year, playing at small forward for the majority of the season. Before the All-Star Break, playing mostly small forward, Gordon averaged 11.2 points per game and shot 42.8 percent from the floor (with a 47.8 percent effective field goal percentage). After the All-Star Break, playing mostly power forward, Gordon averaged 16.4 points per game and shot 50.3 percent from the floor. His usage ticked up and he was wholesale jerseys a more efficient player, with a 53.8 percent effective field goal percentage. When Gordon returned to power forward, the offense became less of an issue for Gordon. He was not asked to carry a large amount of the load and could play closer to the basket. But Gordon spent most of the year playing a position he was not suited for. He needs to use this offseason to catch back up.
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In case you missed it this morning, ESPN’s Tim McMahon and Bobby Marks collaborated on an excellent piece detailing how the irresponsible spending by NBA teams last summer could impact a star-studded free agent class in 2018.Which is music to the ears of Bulls’ front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman, who are hoping to be a major player on the free agent market next year. The ESPN report projected only nine teams having cap space to bid on a free agent class that could include Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Paul, Isaiah Thomas, Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Avery Bradley, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wilson Chandler, Danny Green, Enes Kanter and Greg Monroe, along with restricted free agents like Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic, Marcus Smart, Rodney Hood, Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Aaron Gordon and Clint Capela. Bad summer not to have any spending money. But that’s exactly what Paxson and Forman were anticipating when they chose not to get involved in the reckless spending triggered by the league’s new TV deal last summer. We all know about some of the terrible contracts handed out including a four-year, $72 million deal to Joakim Noah, four years, $64 million for Timofey cheap jerseys authentic Mozgov and Portland spending almost $150 million to lock up reserves Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner for four years. The Bulls signed Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Canaan last summer, but avoided any salary commitment beyond two years. Both Rondo and Canaan were bought out of the team options the Bulls held for next season. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are now in such a deep luxury tax hole that they basically gave Crabbe away in a trade with Brooklyn earlier this week, immediately waiving the player they got back, power forward Andrew Nicholson, under the league’s stretch provision. Portland figures to be one of at least 10 teams paying the luxury tax for the 2018-19 season. I know what many of you are thinking, “Why will 2018 free agency be any different than in years past?” Yes, the Bulls missed out on primary targets James, Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, and they failed to land Anthony in 2014. But with so many teams capped out, the Bulls will face less competition in pursuing the players they want most next summer. We’ve all heard the rumors about James wanting to finish his career in L.A., and it’s unlikely Durant, Westbrook, George or Paul would have any interest in coming to Chicago. But the Bulls could get significantly better right away in a weakened Eastern Conference by adding one or two players from a list of unrestricted free agents that could be looking for a new situation, including Cousins, Jordan, Bradley, Thomas, Caldwell-Pope, Kanter, Chandler and Green. They also could use their cap space to make a massive cap offer to a restricted free agent whose team is already in the luxury tax. Of course, the Bulls have decisions to make with their own roster as well. They still haven’t re-signed Niko Mirotic, and any contract beyond one season will reduce their cap space next summer. Plus, the key player coming back in the Jimmy Butler deal, shooting guard Zach LaVine, will be a restricted free agent next summer, and if he comes back 100 percent from ACL surgery, could command a multi-year contract starting at $20 million or more. The Bulls have contract options on the rookie deals of Bobby Portis, Kris Dunn, Cam Payne, Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine and Lauri Markkanen, while Paul Zipser’s $1.5 million salary is not guaranteed for 2018-19. Paxson said the Bulls are committed to re-building through the draft, and the hope is they’ll wind up with a top 3 pick after next year’s lottery to grab a franchise changing talent like Missouri’s Michael Porter, Jr., International star Luka Doncic and 7-footers DeAndre Ayton of Arizona and Mohamed Bamba of Texas. Looking at the big picture, if LaVine comes back 100 percent, Dunn emerges as a legit starting point guard and Markkanen shows potential as a stretch 4, the Bulls rebuild could move quickly. Adding one of the top players in next year’s draft would be the first step, then Paxson and Forman would be armed with somewhere between $40-50 million dollars in cap space to pursue an impact free agent or two. Bulls fans remember how long it took to re-build the team after the end of the Jordan era in 1998. Jerry Krause couldn’t land a major free agent, and the Tyson Chandler-Eddy Curry experiment failed badly. Let’s hope Paxson and Forman have more luck this time around. At least they’ll have a built-in advantage when the 2018 free agent market opens for business next July with the Bulls projected to have more cap space available than any other team in the league.