Denver Nuggets' Arron Afflalo the Early Favorite for NBA's Most Improved Player

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IDecember 3, 2010

Arron Afflalo has truly developed his driving game this season in order to compliment his great three-point shooting.
Arron Afflalo has truly developed his driving game this season in order to compliment his great three-point shooting.

Arron Afflalo is the best NBA player no one outside of the Mile High City has ever heard of.

Afflalo is a relative nobody in the NBA who should be regarded as an up-and-coming player in the Association.

Afflalo, in his fourth year as a professional basketball player, has been the starting shooting guard for the Nuggets since he was brought to Denver in a trade before the 2009-10 season.

Nuggets head coach George Karl showed he had much confidence in Afflalo, starting him in front of the other-worldly athletic abilities of J.R. Smith, and Karl’s conviction has proven correct as Afflalo has shined in his role.

And while Afflalo enjoyed much growth as a starter last season, he proved he’s not complacent like Smith and other gifted NBAers—Afflalo went to work in the offseason.

This year, he’s quicker, more explosive, a better passer, more aggressive on the boards—Afflalo’s all-around a better player.

It shouldn’t come as surprising either, he’s hailed as a gym rat, (the first one to the Pepsi Center and the last one to leave) an extremely unique characteristic of an NBA player. His work ethic is mile high like the court he now calls home.

Afflalo finished last season fourth in the NBA in three-point shooting, and he’s definitely developed an off-the-dribble game, with the ability to get to the hoop much more frequently than last season. At 6’5” and 215 pounds, Afflalo knows how to use his body well in order to get in position for rebounds and he’s learning how to dish the ball better as well.

His most telling stat explains his scoring efficiency, as he is one of only two players in the NBA to shoot over .500 percent from the field, over .400 percent from the three-point line and .900 from the free throw line. The other player is Ben Gordon, and Afflalo makes some $10 million less a year than Gordon.

Afflalo’s found his slight bit of swagger—a quiet confidence that hasn’t grown into the realm of cockiness—something every star in the NBA possesses.

Yes, swagger is essential to NBA stardom these days, and those athletes that can find a balance between confidence and cockiness are the most endearing to fans.

That’s what is so refreshing about Afflalo, as he continues to blossom into an uncontrollable beast on the court, yet he hasn’t lost his humility or allowed his ego to blow up like the Hindenburg.

To wit, Afflalo wasn't offered a contract extension earlier this season despite great play, and instead of voicing displeasure he talked about wanting to be with Denver in the foreseeable future.

This is why Afflalo will one day be a legitimate star in the NBA, possibly sooner rather than later and he’s already starting to be recognized as a fan favorite with his energetic play and motor that never stops.

And while there are many contenders for the Most Improved Player award this season, most of them are already considered stars to some degree. What makes Afflalo unique is that he’s so unknown by most casual fans and is almost never discussed by the national media.

Afflalo deserves this award and he is due much more recognition nationally as one of the best young players in the NBA.

Here’s a look at how Afflalo stacks up against some of the other major contenders in the NBA for this award. Where do you all think they rank fans? Who would you say wins the MIP when the season is over?




1.       Arron Afflalo, Denver Nuggets

Year       Min.       FG%       3PT%     FT%    Reb.       Asts.      St.           Pts.

09-10     27.1        0.465     0.434     0.735     3.1          1.7          0.6          8.8

10-11     35.4        0.503     0.431     0.860     4.2          2.6          0.6         12.5

Diff.       +8.3       +.038     -.oo3     +.125     +1.1         +.9          push       +3.7


2.       Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Year       Min.       FG%       3PT%     FT%     Reb.       Asts.      St.           Pts.

09-10     34.3        0.418     0.221     0.780     4.9          8.0          1.3          16.1

10-11     37.8        0.446     0.273     0.872     5.6          8.6          2.2          24.6

Diff.       +2.5       +.028     +.052     +.092     +.7          +.6          +.9          +8.5


3.       Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls         

Year       Min.       FG%       3PT%     FT%     Reb.       Asts.      St.          Pts.

09-10     36.8        0.489     0.267     0.766     3.8          6.0          0.7          20.8

10-11     38.7        0.464     0.339     0.758     4.3          7.9          0.9          25.8

Diff.       +1.9       -.015      +.072     -.008      +.5          +1.9       +.2          +5.0


4.       JaVale McGee, Washington Wizards

Year       Min.       FG%       3PT%     FT%     Reb.       Blk.         St.         Pts.

09-10     16.1        0.508     0.000     0.638     4.0          1.7          0.3          6.4

10-11     28.4        0.587     0.000     0.592     8.6          2.6          0.8         10.4

Diff.       +8.3       +.079     push      -.046      +4.6       +.9          +.5          +4.0


5.       Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

 Year      Min.       FG%       3PT%     FT%     Reb.       Blk.         St.           Pts.

09-10     25.1        0.495     0.500     0.754     5.7          1.6          0.4          11.7

10-11     30.4        0.498     0.000     0.779     9.2          1.9          0.4          16.1

Diff.       +5.3       +.003     -.500      +.025     +3.5       +.3          push         +4.4


Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively looking for a career in journalism. Along with being the Denver Nuggets and Denver Broncos Featured Columnist for, Kurtzman is the CSU Rams Examiner and Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for

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