Denton: Afflalo's Efficiency Impressing Vaughn & Teammates
By John Denton
Dec. 9, 2013
MEMPHIS – When the Orlando Magic do finally get all of their players back from injuries and become whole for the first time this season, they will have a starting five – Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson, Tobias Harris, Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic – all capable of scoring 20 points in a game.
While there is some concern if there are enough shots to go around for that powerful lineup, Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn isn’t worried about it curtailing the effectiveness of Afflalo, Orlando’s most productive player this season at 22.1 points per game. Vaughn said that Afflalo has learned to become a dominant scorer this season without being a player who dominates the ball.
What makes Afflalo’s career year even more impressive is the efficiency that he is playing with in every facet. He is shooting 48.3 percent from the floor, 44.3 percent from the 3-point stripe and 85.3 percent from the free throw line. Afflalo headed into Monday’s game in Memphis needing just 15.9 shots and 5.3 3-point attempts per game to average the 22.1 points a game. By comparison, he needed 14.1 shots and 3.7 3-point attempts a game last season to average 16.5 points a game.
``He’s set an example for the rest of his teammates,’’ Vaughn said of Afflalo’s efficient play. ``We haven’t played whole, but once we do become whole there are only a certain amount of shots that guys can have in a game. I think he’s proven that he can be efficient in a game without searching out the ball every possession and also giving us something on the defensive end of the floor.’’
To further put Afflalo’s efficiency in perspective, Golden State guard Steph Curry is averaging similar numbers scoring-wise (22.5 points per game) as Afflalo (22.1 points per game). However, Curry needs 17.2 shots and 7.4 3-pointers a game to produce like he does. Afflalo is also getting to the free throw line much more this season (5.1 attempts a game) compared to last season (3.4 attempts a game).
Becoming a much more efficient and intelligent player was a goal of Afflalo’s when the season began, and he’s hit on nearly every mark a quarter of the way into the season.
``Overall, he’s been so efficient. He hasn’t searched out the job every possession. He’s done his job as a teammate,’’ Vaughn said of Afflalo. ``The ball has found him in good places and his teammates know what he is capable of doing. And he’s our leading scorer right now, so it’s smart to get him the basketball.’’
NIK-ED UP: Vucevic missed his fourth straight game on Monday night in Memphis because of a sprained left ankle. He hurt his ankle in the most bizarre fashion, stepping on the foot of a courtside cameraman as he attempted to run back up the court.
Vucevic had X-rays the night of the injury and they were negative, leading him to believe that he would soon be able to return. But he was unable to practice Thursday in New York because of persistent pain and didn’t feel comfortable following a pregame session in Madison Square Garden on Friday. Vucevic didn’t practice fully on Saturday in Houston, knocking him out of Sunday and Monday’s games.
``It’s still painful,’’ he said. ``It just takes time for it to heal, I guess. I didn’t too much (Saturday in practice) because it was still sore. I just took it easy and did a lot of rehab exercises. They want me to rest it so it heals (properly).’’
MAX STAYING READY: Lost in Orlando’s loss to the Rockets on Sunday night in Houston was the strong defensive effort by Orlando reserve power forward/center Jason Maxiell against Dwight Howard.
Despite giving away four inches to the former Magic superstar center, Maxiell twice blocked Howard’s shot and he played tough defense against him in the post. Maxiell also stuffed a James Harden layup and chipped in five rebounds in 18 minutes on the floor. His work helped soften the blow of the Magic being without Vucevic.
Maxiell started the first 10 games of the season while Davis was out injured, but has since been used sparingly off the bench. He was ready to go when called upon on Sunday night because he studies scouting reports and does his work on the side to stay in good shape. Howard had 20 points against the Magic, but he made just six field goals and missed six of his 14 free throws.
``Against a guy like (Howard), I want to get into his legs and get him frustrated and meet him before the block so that he can’t post up,’’ Maxiell said. ``When he does make his move, I know that I have to get into him and be physical with him.’’
Maxiell, 31, takes his role seriously as a mentor to the Magic’s younger players. Said Maxiell: ``That’s what it’s all about – staying ready. And I want the younger guys to see that as well. I might not be very verbal myself, but they can see that I’m ready when my number is called. You have to do what you preach to show the young guys the way.’’
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