In our “What’s Next” series, Senior Staff Writer Zach Oliver will take a look at the Magic’s players individually, and what their future with the team may be or what the next step is for them in their development. Orlando’s sharpshooter, Arron Afflalo, is up next.
After being acquired in the Dwight Howard blockbuster, Arron Afflalo was thrust into a role he had never had before: the “go to guy.” The UCLA product struggled in his first year in Orlando, forcing shots and not looking completely comfortable in the offense at times. However, in his second season with the Magic, Afflalo looked much more comfortable, scoring with relative ease and at will many times this season while also having a profound impact off the court.
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In his second season with the team, Afflalo saw a sizable jump in efficiency while having a larger role in the offense as well. His increased comfort level translated into his strong on-court performance. Afflalo attributed his strong play to not only working on his game in the offseason, but also watching video of Kobe Bryant and learning from that. The increase in production should come as no surprise as Afflalo is only the second player in NBA history to raise his scoring average in seven straight seasons, trailing only Derek Harper who did it in eight straight seasons.
Afflalo was asked how proud he was of his ability to continue to take his game up a notch, to which he had this to say: “Yeah, the actual scoring averages can be indicative a little bit. It could also be circumstantial a little bit just based on my playing time and opportunity in the NBA; but the progression is what I’m proud of cause regardless of what the stats say, every summer I do try to find ways to hopefully be a better leader from my position on the team and individually. I push myself to be the best player I can be.”
There are some questions hovering around Afflalo however, despite his strong play and great leadership for the young Magic squad. His name has been thrown around in trade talks around the trade deadline and the draft and offseason the last two years. It’s unclear if the Magic will move him, but it’s something that could happen for the guard who’s on one of the best contracts in the league right now. How the upcoming draft plays out, one in which the Magic have two lottery picks, might be the biggest determining factor for Afflalo being in Orlando next season or not.
While trade rumors will undoubtedly continue to swirl, few will be surprised to see Afflalo still in town next season. In his two years in Orlando, Afflalo has shown a great work ethic and a strong commitment to winning, along with being a great presence for the younger players in the locker room. Recently, Afflalo was asked what his frame of mind is after two seasons like this, to which he had this to say, “I guess it’s just my job to get better as a player, and hopefully be impactful on getting more wins for us.”
The veteran shooting guard knows he might have to step up as a more vocal leader next season as well. During exit interviews, one reporter asked if he felt he needed to be more vocal with the team. Afflalo had this to say, “Yeah, no question. I have a lot to learn myself and part of my growth is finding that balance between what it is I want for myself individually and what it is the team needs from me, and being vocal because of the experiences I have and the role on my team is vital, it’s important when other guys kind of look to you for guidance a little bit in anyway. I do feel the time is right as I do progress in my career and get another year under my belt that there are some things I need to share for us to win.”
While his future is a little unclear, Afflalo appears to be in a good spot in Orlando. He’s coming off a career year and appears to still be on the rise. He’s poised to become a leader for the young Magic men, and will undoubtedly thriveif he is to return to the team next season.