Arron Afflalo Primed for Breakout Season Following Blockbuster Trade
Lakers fans were elated to find that their team was once again a top contender, 76ers fans finally had a franchise centerpiece to cheer for and Nuggets fans got a nice upgrade at shooting guard while shedding some problematic contracts.
However, there were also plenty of fans who were not so thrilled at the Lakers landing Howard. Teams like the Heat, Thunder and Clippers now all have another powerhouse standing in their way, while Houston fans must cope with a directionless, rebuilding roster after their team threw everything on the line in an unsuccessful bid to land Howard.
But no fans could possibly be so worried today as those of the Orlando Magic. The trade brought great uproar as NBA analysts across the country scoffed at the Magic's failure to get sufficient return in exchange for Howard and criticized Orlando's management for allowing the Lakers to form another super team at such a low price.
But although the future may seem bleak for Magic fans, they do have a few things to be excited about.
One of those things is named Arron Afflalo.
Afflalo, easily the most talented player to join the Magic through the trade, spent the last three seasons as the starting shooting guard for the Denver Nuggets. Afflalo's career averages aren't particularly impressive. In five seasons, the 6'5" guard has averaged 8.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
While those numbers may not appear gaudy, an important thing to note about Afflalo is his steady improvement. In each of his NBA seasons, Afflalo's production has improved upon the last, jumping from 3.7 PPG in his rookie season to 15.2 PPG in 2011-12. Furthermore, even that respectable 15-point average may not be indicative of his true scoring ability.
How many points will Afflalo average next season?
During his time with the Nuggets, Afflalo was largely delegated to the role of defensive specialist and three-point marksman. Afflalo rarely stepped outside of his role and often deferred to more prominent offensive players, like Carmelo Anthony, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari.
However, a midseason injury to Gallinari last season opened up an opportunity for Afflalo to take on a larger offensive role, and he capitalized.
In the final 30 games of the 2011-12 season, Afflalo averaged 17.9 points while shooting over 50 percent from the field. His rebound and assist numbers went up, too, as he proved himself as a veritable option on offense and expanded his game outside of simple spot-up shooting.
As the starting shooting guard on the rebuilding Magic, Afflalo should have an even greater opportunity to establish himself as a top scorer. While most players seem to drop off in efficiency as they take more shots, Afflalo's percentages and efficiency skyrocketed alongside his scoring numbers last season, and there's no reason to think he couldn't thrive as the Magic's go to offensive option next season.
Afflalo is a deadly shooter and tenacious defender who has shown the capacity to contribute effectively in numerous areas and who displayed a knack for clutch shooting. Although this may seem an excessively lofty comparison, Afflalo often reminds me of a poor man's Kobe Bryant, and given the freedom to operate on offense I could easily see him averaging 20 points per game next season.
Afflalo will surprise Magic fans next season, continuing his upward trajectory while establishing himself as a major candidate for the Most Improved Player award. The future may not look great for Magic fans, but Afflalo will do what he can to help Orlando forget the flight of Superman.
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