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Magic HC Steve Clifford expects Aaron Gordon ‘to take another big step this summer’

Aaron Gordon, Steve Clifford, Magic

The Orlando Magic are a team on the rise. Predicted to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings before the 2018-19 season, they went 42-40 and snuck into the playoffs as the seventh seed. Despite an early playoff exit, the 2018-19 season was certainly a success for Orlando.

The Magic had a number of key contributors step up throughout the season, but they really couldn’t have had such a great campaign without Aaron Gordon. The young forward had one of the best seasons of his career and made himself into a foundational piece for Orlando. And head coach Steve Clifford thinks Gordon will keep getting even better.

“He had, to me – I don’t want to say a breakout season – because the way he works, the way he studies the game and he’s such a committed player, but I think he’ll take another big step this summer for next year,” Clifford said, per John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. “Certainly, he showed a lot of aspects of what he can do and what he can become. And I still don’t think he gets enough credit for the defense that he played all year.”

Orlando knew Gordon had big potential when they drafted him fourth overall in 2014. But his NBA career got off to a bit of a slow start. He didn’t become a regular until the 2016-17 season, and he didn’t truly break out until his injury-shortened 2017-18. However, he put it all together last season and played his first full campaign as a truly valuable player.

In the regular season, Gordon averaged 16.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 44.9 percent. He started all 78 games he played and averaged 33.8 minutes. Unfortunately, like many other Magic players, he went a little quiet in the postseason against the Toronto Raptors and posted just 15.2 points per game.

Between his work ethic, postseason experience and an improving team, Gordon could take his game to another level next season. If he does, the Eastern Conference could be in trouble.