Due to the slim chances the Magic acquire a playoff berth, Orlando is chiefly interested in player evaluation for the future, and the early returns on Arron Afflalo are probably not what the franchise was hoping for.
Afflalo, who was obtained in the blockbuster Dwight Howard deal back in August, was supposed to turn the corner and become the next star of the franchise. After successful tenures with both the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets, where Afflalo developed into a quality role player, the expectations placed on the shooting guard were quite high entering the year due to absence of other stars on the Magic roster.
If the early part of the regular season is any indication, though, Afflalo is still what he has always been: An elite role player.
Everybody knows Afflalo is one of the best defenders in the league. Whether it be like Kobe Bryant, James Harden or Manu Ginóbili, this high-energy player presents a package which includes stopping the opposing team's best offensive guard.
While that is all fine and dandy, the NBA is a scoring league, and the Magic need Afflalo to step up in this specific department. Not only has he been pretty inefficient this season, only converting on 43 percent of his field goal attempts, but the 27-year-old has failed to find a rhythm in his isolation game.
Often, Afflalo can't create enough separation to produce a quality shot, which leads to the starting shooting guard jacking up head-scratching jumpers that plague Orlando's field goal percentage.
Additionally, Afflalo is only slightly improving on his points-per-game average from one season ago, increasing it from 15.2 to 15.6. Considering that he is no longer playing with former teammates Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Rudy Fernández and Ty Lawson from Denver, Afflalo should be thriving with his new supporting cast of J.J. Redick, Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson.
Simply put, Afflalo has been unable to just find efficient ways to use his athletic body and fantastic skill set, which includes a solid shooting stroke that extends all the way past the three-point arc and a knack for penetrating to the hoop, to create better scoring opportunities.
Despite shooting nearly three more shots per game this year (13.9) than last year (11.3), Afflalo has only slightly risen his points per game—ouch.
There has been a few signs, though, which should provide hope for the Orlando Magic franchise that Afflalo has the potential to become the next franchise cornerstone. Just two days removed from a five-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets, the former UCLA Bruin exploded against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, fueling 113-103 dominant win against Los Angeles.
Just a side note, the Orlando Magic are now one-and-zero against the one who shall not be named...moving on.
This eye-popping performance, where Afflalo possessed 30 points, five boards and five assists while containing Kobe Bryant to some extent, was certainly impressive, and hopefully is a sign of things to come.
If this was actually a small sampling of what the future brings with Afflalo at the helmet, Orlando's playoff aspirations should once again be in the forefront of the team's mind.