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Thursday, January 9, 2014
Defense first for Aaron Gordon

By Ryan Feldman


When discussing the "big 4" freshmen -- Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon -- it's easy to talk about the offensive abilities of Wiggins, Parker and Randle.

But what about defense?

Gordon leads all Division I freshmen this season in defensive win shares -- a statistic that estimates the number of wins a player contributes to their team due to their defense.

Wiggins, Parker and Randle all rank outside the top 10 among freshmen in defensive win shares.

The next Blake Griffin?
Coming into college, Gordon was often compared to another athletic big man -- Blake Griffin, who was a freshman at Oklahoma six years ago. Griffin played two college seasons before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

The comparison might not be far off. Remember that Griffin did not dominate as a freshman the way he did as a sophomore. In his first season at Oklahoma, he averaged about 15 points and nine rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent. Gordon's numbers are very similar to Griffin's numbers as a freshman.

Both players are efficient in transition. Gordon is shooting 67 percent in transition compared to Griffin's 64 percent as a freshman. Transition is where Griffin racks up the highlights with the "Lob City" Clippers.

Griffin attacks the rim relentlessly and finishes with authority. Gordon is shooting 55 percent at the rim compared to Griffin's 56 percent as a freshman.

And Gordon is the better jump shooter, shooting 28 percent on jumpers compared to Griffin at just 20 percent as a freshman. Gordon is 7-of-19 on 3-pointers, while Griffin didn't make a single 3-pointer as a freshman.

But again -- what about defense?

Defense wins championships
Gordon is holding opponents to 34 percent shooting as an on-ball defender. Griffin's opponents shot 42 percent as a freshman. Gordon is much better than Griffin was defending the post. Gordon is holding opponents to 40 percent shooting on post-up plays compared to 55 percent for Griffin.

Gordon's defense is a large reason why Arizona has the third-best defensive efficiency in the country. It's also why the Wildcats are 15-0, their best start since 1931-32.

So when you compare Gordon to Griffin or Wiggins, Parker and Randle, don't forget that defense is just as important as offense -- and on defense, Gordon has the edge.