Arron Afflalo had a career season, and no one is disputing his production for the Orlando Magic. However, looking at 2014-15, could he be more valuable as a trade asset than as a player? Should Orlando pursue a transaction during the offseason?
The main question regarding a trade will be what management expects to achieve in the near future. While the franchise can be expected to become a regular playoff candidate again soon in the weak Eastern Conference, the chance of competing for a championship in the next few years are rather slim.
Everyone hopes the losing seasons will be in the past soon.
At the same time, fans are also well aware that the rebuilding process itself is far from over. The roster is full of young talent, and two more first-round draft picks will be added on June 26.
The core players seem determined to do their part by working hard over the summer and holding themselves accountable, as reported by NBA.com's John Denton. Nonetheless, it will take patience for everything to click eventually.
For Afflalo, time is the very commodity of which he is running short.
The veteran will be entering his eighth campaign, and he will likely be way past his prime once the Magic can possibly be considered a NBA championship-calibre team.
Thanks to the shooting guard's improved play, Orlando is now in a good position to trade him. Given his current value, it is the perfect time to cash in before age catches up.
Here is a look at various aspects and scenarios from both Afflalo's and the Magic's point of view.
The obvious positive aspect for Afflalo would be the chance to get an NBA ring if he ends up with a top team.
In Orlando, the likelihood of winning a championship within the next five years is slim at the very best.
The team certainly will improve significantly over the next seasons and, who knows, possibly even make it to the NBA Finals again in the foreseeable future. But unless management can bring aboard a couple of star players, as opposed to guys with star potential, the franchise will not be able to get there before Afflalo's retirement.
So, if he wants to become NBA champion, he needs to be on a team competing for the title during, or at least within, the next three or four years.
The shooting guard has found his stride with the Magic.
Part of that is due to playing 35 minutes per game and being allowed to be the main weapon on offense. If traded to a title contender, his minutes and role would certainly diminish.
At 29 years old next season, he may not have a problem with it if it gains him that cherished ring.
But what if it doesn't?
He might be stuck in limbo, on a team not good enough to get to the absolute top, yet with too many skilled and established players for him to take on a leading role. That would translate into less playing time, decreased production and a worse position for future contracts.
Additionally, if the Orlando Magic feel that it would be more sensible to get yet another good draft pick in the future, Afflalo may well end up with another team on the wrong side of the playoff picture altogether.
That particular threat seems unlikely, though, given how many young talents are already gathered in O-Town. Going for yet more raw youth wouldn't make much sense.
The question for the Magic is what can they get in return?
In the case of a title contender, a draft pick certainly does not seem to be enough. What to do with yet another rookie, promising or not, especially one you get with a late pick? The franchise is filled with talented, young players.
Orlando could do with some defensive-minded veteran instead. Like Chris Andersen.
Let us assume, hypothetically, that the Miami Heat agreed to the deal.
Andersen would be a great investment.
He still has a couple of productive seasons in him. He doesn't need to provide major minutes as long as his intensity and experience rub off on Orlando's youngsters.
The Birdman could not only aid in developing the youngsters for the future, he would also provide immediate help for a struggling interior defense.
For Arron Afflalo this would be an interesting trade scenario as well.
Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis are all past their primes and will be free agents once the playoffs are history. Afflalo, while no spring chicken himself, could provide the important backup role for Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The 28-year-old has proved he can shoot the ball and get hot in a hurry.
The Heat will need to think about a roster overhaul with all the expiring contracts and ageing players. Arron Afflalo certainly wouldn't be a bad choice for a reliable sixth man who can produce straight away.
Regardless of whether this particular deal becomes a reality; if the Orlando Magic can end up with someone like Andersen, they should definitely go for it.
Afflalo will be an interesting asset for playoff teams only.
He isn't the type of player who can turn a franchise around single-handedly. Teams in the same position as Orlando will therefore not be too keen to go for a veteran who will be too old to produce once they become competitive.
Therefore, the Magic are pretty much forced to make a deal with a team in the top half of the league.
If they cannot get their hands on a coveted veteran, merely securing a low draft pick—thus most likely a player with no grand future or intangibles—will certainly not be enough to make up for losing Afflalo.
The worst-case scenario for Orlando would be to simply keep him. Once he gets replaced by younger players in the starting lineup, Afflalo can certainly be a great bench player for years to come.
Even with increasing age, the veteran will still be able to provide offense and, at the very least, bring some relief for the starters when coming off the bench. Every team needs reliable players on the sidelines.
Then again, Orlando would be better off getting someone who may not be at Afflalo's level but able to be a consistent backup several years down the road, when it actually matters.
What good is a great, rather expensive, veteran sixth man in yet another losing season?
Why Trade Afflalo This Offseason?
The Magic are not exactly in a hurry. Afflalo's contract expires at the end of 2015-16, pending his decision on the player option.
However, if they can't get a satisfactory deal during this offseason, his value will decrease quickly due to his age. And that is if he can keep up or slightly increase last year's production.
If he can't, his attractiveness for other teams will plummet faster than Manu Ginobili on a cheap flop.
Depending on Orlando's draft picks, Victor Oladipo may finally switch to his more natural shooting guard position. Tobias Harris has enormous potential and is already one of the better small forwards in the game, so he should eventually earn his starting spot at the 3.
That will basically leave Afflalo fighting for minutes sooner or later.
Even as a bench player, he should still average at least 25 minutes a game because he is versatile and simply a great relief to come from the sidelines. If he receives more court time, however, he takes important playing time from Harris and Co.
Will that be enough for a player of Afflalo's caliber?
The last thing the Magic can afford is having the veteran unhappy and, in turn, losing leverage in potential trade scenarios by the minute—in a rather literal sense.
Both Arron Afflalo and the Orlando Magic could profit from an offseason trade.
The shooting guard needs to end up with a possible title contender while he is still in his prime and able to make meaningful contributions, instead of wasting his time and talent on a rebuilding team.
Orlando would profit from a defensive-minded veteran big man, even if he is nothing more than an experienced role player.
While the team possesses several potent perimeter defenders, the inside makes jello look like concrete. Vucevic is an impressive rebounder and a decent offensive threat, but he doesn't get the amount of blocks a 7-footer should.
Kyle O'Quinn has a lot of defensive potential but is still raw. He, too, would profit from veteran guidance. Having someone like Andersen show the 23-year-old the ropes would certainly increase his learning curve.
A tougher interior D also helps the perimeter guys.
They can defend with more aggressiveness, knowing there is a presence in the paint who, at the very least, alters shots or makes opposing players think twice about attacking the rim.
That leads to more missed shots and turnovers by the opponent and, in turn, more fast-break opportunities.
If the Orlando Magic can get that missing piece, they should—and will—trade Arron Afflalo during the offseason.
You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic in particular.
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