ladies and gentlemen! today i have a treat for you: a guest blogger! his name is scott, affectionately known by his closest friends as scootz. he grew up in michigan, went to school at clemson, and now resides in east atlanta with his roommate and coworker jon. his favorite movie is back to the future, and his favorite professional sports team is the detroit tigers. he has a taste for the finer things in life, including chipotle, fellini’s, and hop shing. but, what does he love most of all? he loves the nba. now, before i spoil anything for you, before i attempt to chime in, and before i pull you any further on the edge of your seats, we give you the plight of arron afflalo.
Kendrick Lamar used to be jealous of Arron Afflalo. GMs used to be jealous of teams that had Arron Afflalo. And why wouldn’t they be? The now 29-year-old SG out of UCLA is an outstanding two-way player in a league bereft of well-rounded shooting guards. He is a weapon shooting from the perimeter, with a 42.7% three-point percentage last year (39% over his career), and can drive the hoop and generate easy buckets and free throw opportunities. He contributed as a passer in Orlando’s offense and hits the boards pretty well for a 2-guard. It’s no surprise that he put up career highs in Orlando last year as he was forced into being a number one option for them, but he remained an efficient scorer with a 46/42/81 slash line even with increased shots. He’s also a good defender, quick enough to cover smaller guards, and big enough to keep bigger guards from bullying him.
It’s natural that the Magic would want to trade Afflalo; he is an asset that a winning team wants, not a team trying to gather assets and get a high draft pick. He emerged as an immensely tradable target as soon as the offseason permitted such moves, and the market seemed ripe with teams looking for his services. There were many good fits for Afflalo, winning teams who needed a little more to get over the hump; an extra bit of scoring (Chicago or Memphis) or another valuable piece of a rotation (San Antonio or Charlotte). So the Magic made their move before the draft and traded him to the Nuggets for…Evan Fournier and a second round pick?
That can’t be right. This is Arron Afflalo, 11th amongst NBA SGs in Estimate Wins Added last year. He’d be a great piece for a contending team. All they get is Fournier and a second rounder? Sure, Fournier is fine; the Frenchman is a solid 3-pt shooter and a young, developing player, but certainly doesn’t project as a future NBA star. The second round pick has very little value as well, because for every Chandler Parsons, there are a dozen Georgios Printezis’ and James Gist’s – aka Euroleague fodder. Surely he has more value than that.
But then we analyze the market for Afflalo or another player like him this offseason. It’s a unique offseason in the NBA draft is so deep that draft picks are coming at a much higher price and it takes a lot more to pry a pick away from anyone. The free agent class is also loaded, with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and many others hitting the market. This stratifies the league into market tiers. There is a subset of teams who has angled themselves enough cap space to be in the market for a max or near-max free agent. There is another subset of teams that has aggressively tanked for multiple seasons in an effort to completely clear the shelves and restock starting with this loaded draft class. This set of teams has no interest in a solid player like Afflalo who undoubtedly makes their team better. Add in the teams that just are not in the market to trade for a SG, and you eliminate 90% of the potential Afflalo suitors.
That leaves Oklahoma City, Charlotte, and Denver.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Magic have to take on Kendrick Perkins to make the salaries work. Perkins + Lamb + 2nd round pick would fit, but probably not worth it for the Magic to take on Perk. The Thunder probably could have traded some combo of Jeremy Lamb/Perry Jones III/Steven Adams/Andre Roberson/Reggie Jackson/the 21st pick in the draft for Afflalo, but that would kill their depth.
Charlotte Hornets – It makes perfect sense for the Hornets, but they don’t have the assets that the Magic would be looking for. They had the #8 pick, but Afflalo is certainly not worth that in a loaded draft class. Maybe for the later pick that they had, but the value still may not have been there. Gerald Henderson + the 24th pick was probably one of the better offers they had, but Henderson is on the books for three more seasons and other than him, Orlando is looking at Bismack Biyombo or Jeff Taylor or someone else that does not appeal to them. Charlotte is a young team as well, and may prefer to target a younger player with their free agent dollars (as we have now seen with Lance Stephenson).
That leaves Denver. Denver treads the “Too Bad to Care” line pretty delicately right now, as they had a precipitous drop off after a great season with George Karl in 2012-13. Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried proved they are not capable of being #1 and #2 options respectively, and injuries ravaged the season. Pair this drop off with the fact that they are in an insanely competitive Western conference, and Denver does not appear to be close to contention this season. So what do they want with Afflalo?
In a dream world Afflalo is a contender. He is a #3 or #4 option at the 2-guard, and contributes on both ends of the court. Chicago is the perfect fit for him. Alongside a hopefully-healthy Derrick Rose, Afflalo can help spread the court sitting in the corners, and find open shots off Joakim Noah interior passes. Or look at the Grizzlies; same scenario as he plays alongside Conley in the backcourt, and provides a much needed perimeter scorer alongside Randolph and Gasol down low.
But alas, the Bulls had their eyes on Melo, and Grit-and-Grind was focused on retaining Randolph as he had the option to opt out this offseason. So that brings us back to Denver; a team that is one major piece away from contending, and now one major piece away from tanking. What is their angle here? Could Denver be a potential Kevin Love landing point? Things looked a lot more wide open before the draft as the Warriors were the only team in deep conversations with the Timberwolves team who does not want to disappoint a consistently disappointed fan base. Even if they are not able to land Love, Afflalo will be a very attractive trade piece for a contender at midseason.
And so lies Arron Afflalo, the perennially pretty good, the enduring professional, and the vastly overlooked. In an offseason that has seen inferior players, such as Spencer Hawes, Avery Bradley, Boris Diaw, and Channing Frye sign deals worth more than Afflalo’s yearly salary, Afflalo himself cannot find a suitor who wants him for what he is.