Monday, June 16, 2014

Examining Arron Afflalo's 2013-2014 Magic Season

Over the course of the Magic's offseason, leading up to the NBA Draft, I'll be analyzing all of the Orlando players that are still on the roster and how they did in their 2013-2014 campaign. I'll be going in ascending order based on games played. I won't be assigning grades or scores.

Previously in the series:

Kyle O'Quinn
Jameer Nelson
Tobias Harris
Nikola Vucevic
Doron Lamb
Jason Maxiell
Ronnie Price
Dewayne Dedmon

Let's take a look at Arron Afflalo.

What should be immediately noted is that Arron Afflalo played and started 73 games. That's nine more than his first season in O-Town. He vowed after last season to work even harder in the offseason to strengthen his body and he successfully accomplished that with a new training regiment and diet. It was pretty evident early in the regular season that Orlando was getting a better Arron Afflalo:

The UCLA product's 7th season in the NBA saw him tallying a few career-high averages: 18.2 points per contest, 3.4 assists per game, 3.8 free throws made per game, 4.6 FT attempts per contest, and 6.4 field goal makes per game. His 42.7 3PT% was only surpassed by the 43.4% shot in his 3rd season (first in Denver). The 45.9 FG% is a full two percent better than last year. Those increases in efficiency make it obvious as to why Arron's scoring average was raised by 1.7 ppg. 

Arron put up a career-high 36 points behind eight 3-pointers in a nifty come-from-behind victory at home against the Milwaukee Bucks on November 13th. In fact, Afflalo hit five or more 3-pointers in four contests this season. Then 'AA' decided to top that on December 3rd with a new benchmark best of 43 points in the heartbreaking double overtime defeat in Philadelphia. Afflalo tallied 20+ points THIRTY times in '13-'14 which is what you want out of your team's leading scorer. Afflalo had a 6-game stretch in late December where he notched 21+ points in each contest. 

That's a wonderful shot chart, especially when you compare it to his 2012-2013 campaign. Even better was the fact that Arron grew his assist and play-making prowess while simultaneously decreasing his turnovers. A lot of that improvement can be seen just based on him protecting the ball whenever he had to dribble. The man from Compton, California just missed out on being chosen for the All-Star Game. You can argue he was snubbed. 

Memphis Grizzlies Coach David Joerger following the February 12th game"Afflalo, we did a nice job in the first half, got going a little bit in the 2nd half. That guy's an All-Star. He's had a great year. He's a tremendous player. I love him."
Jacque Vaughn from January 31st on Afflalo being snubbed from the All-Star Game: "I think we're all human and the last thing I told him was this 2nd half of the season to continue to let the league know how good you are. He's a guy that takes pride in his craft and whether or not he says he was trying to send a message, I'm not sure, but I just loved the way he played tonight. His focus was extremely diligent tonight."
Afflalo will be 29 years old in October. Still in his prime technically. He's gotten better every season he's been in the league. If he and the Magic improve in the '14-'15 campaign, 'AA' will definitely be an All-Star. He made leaps and bounds this season both on-the-ball and off-the-ball. Arron really meshed well with rookie Victor Oladipo. 

The 6'5" wing player is set to make $7,750,000 both next season and the year after that as well before Arron becomes a free agent in the summer of 2016. For a borderline All-Star, that's great value. Rob Hennigan won't treat Afflalo's contract like the dead weight of Hedo Turkoglu or Al Harrington. Arron can start on a large number of teams and won't be just given away in a trade. 

I am worried about Arron's durability still. Just for some strange reason Arron picks up a lot of minor lower-body injuries that limit his effectiveness. They contributed to his drop-off in production after the All-Star Break. Tanking isn't exactly being factored into that 4 points per game drop either. He's tough as nails and plays through more injuries than your average NBAer, but his feet get wrecked over the course of a season. It was a bigger issue last year than this season. Afflalo played the first 25 games of the season. He also didn't miss a contest after March 5th. Can Arron be close to 100% entering a postseason? Just something to ponder.

Arron is respected by most players, media, and fans. It's tough to hate a guy with his attitude, lead-by-example mentality, and competitive spirit. With that said, if the Magic draft a guard such as Dante Exum or Marcus Smart then it may be time to seek a trade partner for Arron. Afflalo can start on quite a few teams. Think Sacramento or Charlotte. Those two teams have the 8th and 9th overall picks in the June 26th NBA Draft. 

If there's a prospect Orlando likes that can't be obtained at #12, then Hennigan can put together an attractive package that includes Arron to move up and snag the prospect they want while also getting back a veteran and maybe a young pro. With that said, I don't think any of those teams previously mentioned have that would tempt Rob to pull the trigger on a deal to ship out Afflalo. 'AA' is a leader in the Magic locker room and that can't be neglected. Arron's on a solid contract and can always be dealt before the trade deadline in February. 

For now, enjoy everything Afflalo represents on and away from the parquet floor. It'd be fantastic if he was part of this franchise making strides in the playoffs once again. 

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