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The Orlando Magic — similar to the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Bobcats and a host of other Eastern Conference teams — are wedged between a tank job and the very real possibility they make the playoffs in a flat-lining East.
This is both good and bad — depending on whom you ask. Many Magic fans are hoping the team took a dive this season. Anything less than a 10 percent chance at the No. 1 pick makes a lot of people unhappy.
The difference between mediocre and awful is smaller than many think, and that’s why trade options for shooting guard Arron Afflalo should not be ignored.
Yes, he’s Orlando’s only real All-Star level talent, and he doesn’t have the stink of losing bleeding into his psyche — at least not yet. So what’s the impetus to trade one of the the best shooting guards in the league?
A lot of people denigrate him because he’s on TV a lot more now, and he’s an editor-in-chief instead of a scrappy blogger, but Grantland’s Bill Simmons described why Afflalo has become a top-five shooting guard in his column from a couple weeks ago, “The NBA’s E-League“:
Afflalo leads all 2-guards in PER (21.46); he’s first in Estimated Wins Added (3.6); he’s third in PPG (22.6); he’s sixth in 3-point percentage (46.3 percent), seventh in FT percentage (85.4 percent) and sixth in FG percentage (48.8 percent); and he’s an excellent defensive player. With James Harden taking the season off defensively (hey, James, you’re not a DH), and Dwyane Wade taking days off left and right like he’s the retiring CEO of a successful company or something, Afflalo is the league’s most reliable 2-guard right now. He’s also one of the league’s best bargains at $7.5 million per year, making him the single best commodity on the trade market right now. It’s true.
This made me re-evaluate whether or not Orlando should trade Afflalo. He continues to look fantastic, and while he’s not as tremendous of a defensive player as people think he is, it’s that amazing shooting that’s leading to graphs about why he’s a top-five shooting guard. No one trades a top-five shooting guard, right?
Here’s Simmons later on in his Magic section, emphasis mine:
Worst-Case Scenario: Doesn’t exist. They’re in the best shape of any Eastern team not named Indy or Miami — they have cost-effective assets, draft picks and cap space. Part of me wants to pull a Tom Ripley on Hennigan and take his job. I’m only half-kidding.
Prognosis: They’ll fade after the All-Star break because of injuries, fake injuries, self-sabotage trades and erratic substitution patterns. I have them happily missing the playoffs. Well done all the way around, Orlando.
So do you trade Afflalo, or has his play through the season’s first trimester turned him into a part of Hennigan’s rebuilding plan? Whenever I’ve got a difficult decision, it’s helpful to create a pro/con list.