Arron Afflalo has had a breakout season, there’s no denying that. But is he All-Star worthy? That remains to be seen. TNT’s Inside the NBA will announce the All-Star reserves Thursday night at 7 PM, and unfortunately it is unlikely that Afflalo will hear his name called.
Afflalo has been a revelation this season. Both his per game and efficiency numbers are up across the board. He’s scoring 20.3 ppg to go along with 4.3 rpg and 3.7 apg. His true shooting percentage is a sizzling 58.8% with a PER of 17.8. But he faces stiff competition from players equally impressive resumes on much more successful teams. NBA coaches may be hesitant to reward a player whose team has a second-worst record in the NBA at 12–34.
Let’s take a look at how the All-Star reserve spots are allocated. Just like the starting lineup, there are two reserve back-court roster spots, and three front-court positions. Even though Afflalo has spent much of the year playing small forward, it is likely that the NBA coaches will consider him a two-guard for purposes of the All-Star game. Finally there are two wild-card spots open to a player of any position.
Who are the guaranteed reserves? John Wall is a safe bet to take one of the guard positions. He’s the best player on the Washington Wizards, and possibly the best point guard in the East. Roy Hibbert, Chris Bosh, and Andre Drummond also look like locks for the three front court positions. leaving three spots up for grabs.
The Atlanta Hawk and the Toronto Raptors, the East’s two surprise playoff teams, figure to get one player each because of their team success. The Hawks lost their obvious All-Star candidate in Al Horfrod, but both Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap have strong resumes. Taegue (16.2 ppg and 7.3 apg, 16.1 PER) is coming into his own, while Millsap (17.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 20.3 PER) continues to fly under the radar.
The Raptors can make a case for both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who is helped keep the raptors in the playoff hunt after the Rudy Gay trade. Complicating matters is that Lowry (16.4 ppg,7.5 apg, 4.3 rpg, 20.0 PER) has a reputation for being difficult with coaches, and Derozan (21.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 3.6 apg, 17.9 PER) really isn’t that efficient.
Since the 30 NBA coaches vote on the All-Star reserve selections, it’s possible that the two pairs of teammates may split the vote between themselves. Each team deserves an All-Star but they don’t deserve two. At least Afflalo doesn’t have that problem. No one else on the Magic’s roster deserves to watch the All-Star game, let alone play in it.
That leaves Arron Afflalo to likely fight it out with Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson for the last overall selection. Afflalo is the better scorer, while Stevenson (14.9 ppg, 5.3 apg, 7.1 rpg, 15.9 PER) fills up the box score in other areas. Stephenson also has a clear advantage in team success, with the Pacers sporting the best record in the league. The difference will likely comes down to whether coaches believe the Pacers deserve a third All-Star, or if the Orlando Magic even deserve one.
And then there are the dark horse candidates. After a rough start to Brooklyn Nets have been red-hot in January, leading some to believe that they deserve an All-Star selection. Their problem right now is that their team is too well-balanced to have an obvious star. Joe Johnson or Deron Williams are the most likely candidates, but they really haven’t played that well this season. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both have the name power, but they’re clearly in the twilight of their careers. Al Jefferson and David West could also be in consideration if the East is looking for more big men.
On merit alone, the Arron Afflalo All-Star argument looks to be a lock. But of course merit usually has very little to do with it, especially when idiots like Jacque Vaughn have a vote. Afflalo’s best hope? Coaches are obsessed with scoring over everything else, and Afflalo is the best of the bunch. Still, coaches love winning, and it’s possible that Afflalo might not even be the most important player on his own team (see Orlando’s record without Nikola Vucevic). Still, if I were betting, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, and Lance Stephenson are the most likely selections.
What are you think? Is Arron Afflalo All-Star worthy? Let us know in the comment section below.