Have we seen the last of Arron Afflalo in this uniform?
Arron Afflalo has only spent one season with the Orlando Magic, and even though he has three more years remaining on his contract, it's already looking like he'll be finding a new home for the 2013-14 campaign.
Although he's certainly a talented shooting guard, Afflalo doesn't fit well with the Magic. Additionally, he's getting in the way of the younger players clamoring for more playing time.
Afflalo would be better served as a lesser option on a better team, one on which he can focus more on his defense and stop worrying about carrying the load on offense. That was his role with the Denver Nuggets, and it worked quite nicely for him.
So far, only one legitimate destination has emerged for Afflalo: the Los Angeles Clippers. However, I'm going to speculate here and propose two more landing spots for the 27-year-old. Each of the moves makes sense and works financially, so I'd encourage you to think about both aspects of any trade when suggesting your own in the comment section.
Los Angeles Clippers: Arron Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler
If you're looking for a mutually beneficial deal, look no further.
The Los Angeles Clippers are looking to shore up their group of shooting guards and add another quality scorer to the lineup while convincing Chris Paul that they're committed to winning now. Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic are looking for long-term upside, preferably in the form of a young, athletic point guard.
Sounds like a match made in heaven, right?
There's no caveat coming here. It is.
This is also the only trade that is actually coming up as a legitimate rumor thus far. According to ESPN's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelbourne, the Clippers are interested in pursuing either Afflalo or Danny Granger:
Sources say that the Clippers, meanwhile, have already engaged the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers in separate trade discussions headlined by Bledsoe, with Orlando's Arron Afflalo and Indiana's Danny Granger as the respective trade targets.
During the 2012-13 season, Afflalo averaged 16.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.2 blocks per game with a subpar 13.0 PER. The 27-year-old was, by most accounts, a bust during his Orlando tenure.
But let's dig a bit deeper.
In no time at all, Afflalo transitioned from being a tertiary option and defensive specialist on the Denver Nuggets to the leading option in Orlando. Tobias Harris finished the season as the team's leading scorer in terms of points per game, but Afflalo was the go-to guy for the majority of the year.
That's a tough transition, and it took its toll on the swingman. Unfortunately, his defense also suffered, as he struggled to lift the heavy offensive burden.
This would change with the Clippers, as Afflalo would take on a lesser role once more. He'd be well behind both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the pecking order, and that would allow him to play more efficient offensive basketball while conserving his energy for the defensive end of the court.
Similarly, Orlando is the perfect landing spot for Eric Bledsoe. He'd bring a heavy dose of athleticism to the squad and could increase his role gradually while learning the tricks of the trade from Jameer Nelson.
The Magic have a surprising amount of talent and will shock many basketball fans during the 2013-14 season when they aren't trying to completely tank. Point guard is the most glaring long-term hole in the lineup, and Bledsoe would immediately help solve that.
Indiana Pacers: Arron Afflalo for Danny Granger
Let's kill two birds with one stone here by having the two teams potentially interested in trading players join forces in one deal.
The Indiana Pacers don't have much of a need for Danny Granger, especially after the emergence of both Paul George and Lance Stephenson, and the Magic don't need Afflalo either. But, funnily enough, each team could use the other squad's player.
Granger would mesh nicely with the Magic, as he could immediately function as the team's leading scorer. That was his role with the Pacers before injuries allowed for George's ascent, and he could allow Moe Harkless to develop more gradually rather than getting thrown into the fire.
While his stock has lost its luster after his injury-plagued 2012-13 campaign, Granger is still a potent scorer.
As for Indiana, Frank Vogel certainly wouldn't mind adding another capable ball-handler to the backcourt. Even if Afflalo didn't start over Lance Stephenson, he'd be a valuable cog in the rotation.
The 2-guard's defensive mentality fits in perfectly with the Pacers' system, and he'd give them a scoring punch that wasn't present when the starting backcourt took a rest in 2012-13. D.J. Augustin clearly wasn't the answer, and while Afflalo wouldn't technically replace the Texas product at point guard, he'd still lessen the importance of the backup floor general.
It's always best when trades help out both teams, and this deal certainly does exactly that.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Arron Afflalo for Derrick Williams and the No. 9 Pick
The Minnesota Timberwolves are ready to compete right now, which makes both the No. 9 pick in the 2013 NBA draft and Derrick Williams more expendable.
Assuming that the T'Wolves bring back Nikola Pekovic, who enters the offseason as a restricted free agent, they'll be a quality shooting guard away from truly competing in the Western Conference. They also don't have much money to spend in order to plug the hole.
Minnesota essentially has three options: accept playing with undersized 2-guards once more, draft a shooting guard or trade for one.
In this weak draft class, the organization's best shot at landing a quality contributor involves selecting either Shabazz Muhammad (and converting him from the 3 to the 2) or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. While both have long-term upside, neither can immediately bring the same skills to the table that Afflalo currently possesses.
During the 2012-13 campaign, Afflalo earned 2.0 win shares for the Magic, a team that he didn't mesh with very well. He'd earned 4.3, 6.2 and 5.3 during his final three seasons with the Denver Nuggets, and the last total came during the lockout-shortened season. 4.3 seems like a good minimum, worst-case-scenario estimate for what he'd earn with the Wolves, as he'd fit back into the role he thrived in for Denver.
It's exceedingly rare for a rookie shooting guard to even get to four win shares in his first professional season. Bradley Beal was almost the exception to the rule, earning 3.0 as a rookie, but Dion Waiters, the other of the top two 2-guards, only accumulated 0.9.
Since the start of the 2000-01 season, only nine rookie shooting guards have broken past four: Rudy Fernandez, Brandon Roy, Eric Gordon, Wesley Matthews, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Courtney Lee, Manu Ginobili and Marcus Thornton.
Given the weakness of this draft class, it's highly unlikely that the list grows following the 2013-14 season.
Where will Arron Afflalo end up?
It makes sense for Minnesota to maximize its talent right now, both so it can compete for a top playoff spot and in order to appease Kevin Love, making him as happy as possible before he eventually hits free agency. This is pure speculation, but I'm guessing that the trade rumors start featuring Love rather heavily if Minnesota misses the playoffs again.
Orlando, on the other hand, doesn't need to advance into the postseason. It just needs to continue stockpiling high-upside players, and general manager Rob Hennigan would gain two of them with this move.
Despite the lack of success Williams has experienced during his professional career, he remains a prospect just brimming over with potential, and Orlando would gain a second top-10 pick in the process of acquiring him.
Expect this move to get some buzz in the days leading up to the draft, even if it hasn't yet.