Last week, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reported that guard Arron Afflalo doesn’t mind if Orlando decides to trade him, and that he’s especially open to a trade to a contending team. Schmitz also cites that Afflalo, who is turning 29 in October, holds a player’s option for the 2015-2016 season, and could opt out following the 2014-15 season. Afflalo was acquired by the Magic in the four-team trade that moved Dwight Howard from Orlando to Los Angeles.
In the NBA, positions are becoming extinct, and the lines are becoming blurred. Instead of using the terms “point guard” and “shooting guard,” I like to use the terms “wings” to describe players who usually play at the shooting guard and small forward positions. Afflalo is a very good second wing. Coming off a career high 18.2 points per game this past season, Afflalo affirmed himself as a great third or fourth option on a good team. Along with his scoring prowess, Afflalo does it efficiently, finishing with a 57.4 TS% this past season. He’s an excellent three point shooter (42%) and thrived from the left corner, finishing with 50% shooting via NBA.com/stats.
Along with excellent scoring numbers, Afflalo offers experience and good, but not great, secondary skills. Before his move to Orlando, Afflalo registered three playoff appearances with the Nuggets, earning more and more minutes each time. As far as secondary skills go, Afflalo is good at all, but great at none of them. He’s a below-average rebounder, but improved as a passer this past season; Afflalo’s assist rate saw a respectable tick upward to 16.9 percent from 14.8 percent his first year in Orlando, while his turnover rate dip down slightly to 11.2 percent 12.1 percent. As far as defensive players, Afflalo is a bit overrated as a defensive player, but works hard on defensive end.
The oddest part of Afflalo’s defense is how much better Orlando was without him on the floor. With Afflalo off the floor, the Magic were five points better, via 82games.com. Diving deeper into his defensive game, Afflalo seems a step slower than you would imagine. Opposing wings had zero trouble forcing Afflalo into a bad defensive stance and some had no problem beating him off the dribble. On spot-up attempts, Afflalo allowed 47 percent shooting, but the biggest problem seemed to be that he was constantly out of position and left shooters open for easy jumpers. Where Afflalo thrived however was against ball-handlers in the pick and roll. In 186 pick and roll plays, Afflalo allowed just 40 percent shooting. Overall, Afflalo looked more comfortable defending in a compact setting, allowing his frame to dictate where the ball was going.
For $7.5 million Afflalo would serve as a respectable shooting guard upgrade for a handful of teams. He’s on one of the best contracts in the league, and his ability to contribute in multiple ways could be a big selling point. If you’re looking for another talented veteran to come in and contribute right away, Afflalo is one of the better, cheaper options available this offseason.
With their youth movement in full swing, it would appear the Magic have no real need for Afflalo. However, he could help them add to their already strong, growing core. Of Orlando’s top eight rotation players last season, only three were over the age of twenty-eight: Afflalo, Glen Davis (no longer with the team), and Jameer Nelson. Looking a bit deeper at the roster, you realize the team has only three players over the age of 30, while nine of the team’s players are under the age of 25.
There is room for a veteran on the roster, but not at the shooting guard position. Even with Victor Oladipo’s solid rookie season, the Magic seem interested in adding a backcourt mate; one that could handle the basketball and initiate the offense. Along with Oladipo, Doron Lamb showed flashes as well, finishing with 40% shooting from three, and playing well especially towards the end of the season.
At the moment, there seems like two possible scenarios for an Afflalo trade.
The first, and most likely scenario, is Orlando holding on to Afflalo until the February trade deadline. There’s no pressure for the Magic to trade Afflalo at the moment, nor did Schmitz’s report suggest the Magic were interested in trading him. However it did suggest Orlando moving him at the deadline. Even with Afflalo’s career year, the Magic still found themselves with 59 losses at the end of the year. Keeping Afflalo for the start of the season allows Orlando to wait and see if a team becomes desperate and caves, giving up the pieces the Magic desire; something they ultimately did with J.J. Redick two years ago.
The second is using Afflalo to trade up in the draft. While this scenario seems unlikely, Orlando could be interested in moving back into the top eight to grab two of Dante Exum, Noah Vonleh, and Marcus Smart. The Sacramento Kings have been rumored to be looking to move the eighth overall pick for a veteran contributor. Could Afflalo intrigue them at all? ESPN.com’s Chad Ford has reported that multiple teams in the lottery are looking to move out of the lottery for an instant contributor, and Marc Stein (also of ESPN.com), dropped Afflalo as a candidate for trade to the Charlotte Bobcats in his “Summer Scoop” series early last month.
When the Magic acquired Afflalo in the Howard blockbuster, it seemed inevitable that he would be moved again. During his exit interview, Magic GM Rob Hennigan mentioned “balance” for his roster. Not trailing into the extremes of going too young or too old. Because of that quote, I envision Afflalo here at the start of training camp. There’s a spot here for Afflalo as a professional, someone that could help mold the young roster, as well as give them someone to emulate on and off the floor. The team is going to build through the draft, mold younger players, and hopefully replicate the Oklahoma City Thunder model of success. Even in the lean years, the Thunder had a handful of veterans that set examples for Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Serge Ibaka. Afflalo could serve that purpose for this roster. However, as Afflalo’s player option looms, and he continues to near his 30′s, he will undoubtedly be interested in looking for a winning situation.
Whether Hennigan decides to move him during the draft or at the deadline is the only real question at this point.