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NBA Daily: Does Aaron Gordon Raise The Nuggets’ Ceiling?

Is Aaron Gordon the Denver Nuggets’ missing piece? Ariel Pacheco takes a look at the newest Nugget and his fit on the roster.

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Without a doubt, the Denver Nuggets were trade deadline winners.

Not only did they add some serious depth and athleticism behind Nikola Jokic in JaVale McGee, but Denver also made a splash in trading for Aaron Gordon, one of the biggest names on the market. On the surface, the deal made a ton of sense for the Nuggets, as they not only added one of the NBA’s hottest commodities, an athletic wing with solid accuracy from three and some playmaking chops, but they acquired another versatile chess piece to use as they see fit on the defensive end.

Though he is much more suited to play power forward, Gordon can slide between either forward spots and, in a pinch, could even give some minutes as a small ball center. The ability to both play and defend multiple positions should allow the Nuggets to switch far more often on defense, while Gordon can take the tougher defensive assignments from Michael Porter Jr., an okay but not great defender at this point in his young career.

With the Orlando Magic, Gordon was often miscast as a primary creator offensively. While he certainly has the talent and skill to initiate the offense, it isn’t the best use of Gordon’s abilities. While he can be the core of a defensive unit, Gordon is much more suited to play a secondary role on offense with time off-the-ball, time which he should see far more of with an elite creator like Jokic. Denver should accentuate his strengths more so than the Magic ever could, given the construction of their roster over the last few seasons.

That said, there is a hope that Gordon’s game might leap to another level in Denver. The Magic, while they did their best to assemble talent around him, have ranked as a bottom-eight offense every season of his career. Gordon, never played with so called “elite” talent at the guard position, while Nikola Vucevic, likely his most talented teammate, arguably made life more difficult as he clogged the lane siphoned touches from Gordon in the frontcourt.

But that should change in Denver. Yes, Gordon’s most talented teammate, Jokic, is still as center, but the Nuggets have far more talent in their backcourt than Orlando ever did in Gordon’s time with a team — and that may just lead to some easy, career-best offense from him.

One of the NBA’s best cutters, Gordon will have the opportunity to truly showcase that talent with Denver. With Facundo Campazzo, Jamal Murray, Jokic and others, the Nuggets boast a bevy of good-to-elite passers that should be able to create space for Gordon and easily find him as he dives to the basket. Likewise, with the defense no longer keyed in on him as a top-option, Gordon should come by far easier shots than the heavily contested jumpers and layups he frequented in Orlando.

Further, Gordon has also shown an ability to create for others. Averaging a career-high in assists at 4.1 per game, his passing should only excel in Denver with strong shooters such as Murray, Porter and even Jokic prowling the perimeter. And Denver should see their biggest boon in Gordon’s defense, which should help to further mitigate the loss of Jerami Grant. Grant’s departure, and the effect he had on the Nuggets’ success, was obvious as the team stumbled out of the gate.

Gordon’s played in just one game with the Nuggets so far, but the (very) early returns are promising. The fit seems to be as good in action as it appears to be on paper. 

Here, Gordon gets a back screen from Murray and Jokic finds him for the easy dunk — the first of many expected for Gordon as the regular season nears its end.

Here, Gordon displays his great instincts as a cutter. The open space created by Jokic and Murray on the outside should make for easy points for Gordon and Denver on most nights.

And again, Jokic’s presence opens up a ton of space. While Gordon has never been a great shooter, he might see more open looks in this short stint with the Nuggets than he ever did with the Magic.

It’s just one game, but Gordon and the Nuggets can and should be a fruitful marriage for both parties. He raises both their ceiling and floor while they, in turn, should make it significantly easier for Gordon in all over the floor, but especially on offense. With him in the fold, Denver can match up with just about any team in the Western Conferece and, with their bench bolstered by Paul Millsap, whose move into a reserve role should accomadate Gordon, they have even more depth to throw at teams both now and in the postseason.

The Nuggets traded away rookie RJ Hampton, Gary Harris and a 2025 protected first-round pick for Aaron Gordon. It’s a win-now move that signals the confidence they have in their ability to go the distance this season. Having turned around their season and facing a West made up largely of question marks and a reigning champion with both of its stars injured, Denver saw their opportunity and seized it.

And Gordon may just be the piece they need to push themselves over the top.

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