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Frankel’s 2013-14 projections
Arron Afflalo’s first season with the Orlando Magic, after arriving from the Denver Nuggets in the Dwight Howard trade, revealed his limitations as a player on both sides of the ball.
Unlike in Denver, where he was more of a tertiary scoring option, Afflalo emerged as one of the main offensive focal points for the Magic. Case in point: Afflalo’s usage rate jumped up from 14.8 percent in 2011 to a career-high 22.5 percent in 2013. The problem was that his efficiency nosedived.
In 2010-11, Afflalo’s True Shooting percentage (.620) ranked third in the NBA. Last season, his percentage (.527) fell below the league-average.
The law of diminishing returns states that when a player increases his usage rate, he becomes less efficient — there are, of course, exceptions to the rule (see Kevin Durant). That’s what happened when Afflalo was asked to do too much on offense for Orlando.
In Denver, Afflalo favored the corner 3. But with the Magic, for some odd reason, Afflalo went away from the corner 3 and launched more 3-pointers above the break. His percentages everywhere else on the court — at the rim and from midrange — remained stable, he even shot a career-high 85.7 percent from the line, but it was his sudden shift away from corner 3s that proved to undermine his 3-point percentage. After shooting 42.3 percent beyond the arc in 2011, he shot 30.0 percent in 2013, which killed his efficiency.
On defense, Afflalo was once regarded as one of the better wing defenders in the NBA. However, that reputation began to wane in Denver over time, as he focused more on his offense, and the pattern continued with Orlando, to the point where Afflalo graded out as a below-average defender this past season according to regularized adjusted plus/minus and Synergy Sports. The on-court/off-court data were damning as well: the Magic were 2.9 points per 100 possessions worse defensively with Afflalo on the floor, per NBA.com.
The only bright spot for Afflalo on the defensive end was that he held opposing shooting guards (11.6 PER) and small forwards (13.3 PER) to low PERs, per 82games.com.
The question that everyone is asking now about the 27-year-old Afflalo is how long is he going to be around? As general manager Rob Hennigan continues to fill Orlando’s cupboard with young talent, more and more people feel that Afflalo’s time with the Magic is running out. Especially now that Victor Oladipo, Orlando’s prized rookie, has landed on the roster as the possible shooting guard of the future.
That’s the narrative thread to look out for while following Afflalo this season. Just as J.J. Redick’s name was in the crosshairs last season as an obvious trade candidate due to his impending free agency, it seems the focus has shifted towards Afflalo, with trade rumblings starting to ferment during the offseason. Given that he’s still young and on a reasonable contract, it makes sense.
No matter where he is, whether it’s with a contender or the Magic, Afflalo is best utilized as a third or fourth option, where he can return to being a mid-usage, high-efficiency scorer like he was for Denver. Less offensive responsibility also leaves more energy for defense, which invites the possibility that Afflalo can restore order with his skill-set and be the “3-and-D” player he once was.
If Afflalo can revert to being that guy, then perhaps the allure of trading him won’t be as great for Orlando.