Heading into the season, the scouting report on Arron Afflalo from his final year with the Denver Nuggets was that his defense had regressed, in part because he worked on expanding his offensive repertoire.
Once known as a good defender, Afflalo poured his efforts into becoming more than just a spot-up shooter and it worked last season. He showed the ability to create his own shot, while also being more aggressive in attacking the rim and drawing fouls.
When it was all said and done, after being a low usage, high efficiency player in 2010-11, Afflalo posted a then-career-high usage rate of 19.1 percent without sacrificing too much efficiency in 2011-12. His True Shooting percentage dipped from 62 percent in 2011 to 58.4 percent in 2012.
Knowing he would be taking on a bigger role offensively this season after being traded to the Orlando Magic in the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade, it was expected that Afflalo’s usage rate would continue to increase and it has. His usage rate of 22.9 percent is a new career-high.
The issue is that Afflalo’s efficiency has continued to decline — his True Shooting percentage is 54.4 percent. The tradeoff between usage and efficiency is a common belief in the analytics community, which is why what Kevin Durant is currently accomplishing this season borderlines on the absurd (a True Shooting percentage of 65.3 percent with a usage rate of 29.3 percent).
The maddening thing about Afflalo is that when he optimizes his shot selection, he’s proven that he can be a medium usage, high efficiency player. That means more shots at the rim and behind the three-point line (especially from the corners), and fewer midrange jumpers. It also means getting to the free-throw line more often.
When Afflalo does that, he’s deadly. When he doesn’t, he’s just an ordinary player.