Denton: Afflalo's Statistical Progression Sign of his Continued Growth
By John Denton
April 16, 2014
ORLANDO – For a seventh consecutive season, Orlando Magic guard Arron Afflalo boosted his scoring average, pumping in 18.4 points per game heading into Wednesday’s season finale.
If Afflalo can do the same thing again next season, he would tie former Magic guard Derek Harper as the only player in NBA history to increase his scoring average over eight consecutive seasons.
Afflalo, 28, entered the NBA in 2007 primarily as a defensive specialist, but he’s continued to grow his offensive game while playing for the Pistons, Nuggets and Magic. Over the past seven seasons he’s averaged 3.7 ppg., 4.9 ppg., 8.8 ppg., 12.6 ppg., 15.2 ppg., 16.5 ppg. and 18.4 ppg. – the final two years with the Magic.
The Magic have offered Afflalo more of a chance to be a go-to scorer, and he responded this season with the most efficient year of his career. He also set career highs for 3-point shooting percentage (42.5 percent), 3.4 assists and he nearly equaled his career-high for rebounds (3.7) with 3.6 boards per game this season.
Afflalo has actually been improving yearly since his college days. At UCLA, he also improved his scoring average each of his three years in college.
This season, Afflalo made a serious run to make the NBA All-Star team for the first time by getting his scoring average to as high as 22.3 points and averaging 19.4 points per game on 49.3 percent shooting before the break. As the Magic faded from contention late in the season, Afflalo slumped after the break, averaging just 16.1 points while shooting 44.4 percent from the floor.
Afflalo admitted recently that he went through a funk in large part because he was frustrated by the team’s losing ways for a second straight season. He said his dip after the all-star break has motivated him to be better next season.
``You play this game because you want to have the hope of winning a championship,’’ Afflalo said. ``Only team is going to win it this year, so every other team is going to go home dissatisfied to some degree. But you want to have the hope that you can have that chance to win until the final day of the season. Playing weeks and months without that expectation of being able to compete for a championship, it’s difficult. But I still have to be professional, play hard and do my job.’’
EXPERIENCED YOUTH: Already loaded with a gaggle of young players, the Magic are poised to come out of the June NBA Draft with two more lottery picks. Orlando owns its own pick and the worst of Denver’s two picks – both of which are slated to be in the lottery because one is owned by the woeful Knicks and the Nuggets will miss the playoffs. The Magic own the second pick by virtue of the Dwight Howard trade from August of 2012 – the move that sent the franchise into rebuilding mode.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn is hoping that because Orlando’s young players have received so much playing time and have been elevated into high-pressure positions that it will speed up the learning curve. Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn have all spent long stretches of this season as starters, while rookie Victor Oladipo has played more than 2,400 minutes at shooting guard and point guard.
``Our young guys have gotten a lot of experience underneath their belts, whether it’s being in late-game situations or playing a ton of minutes,’’ Vaughn said. ``We want to speed up the maturation and get guys better faster and grown within.’’
Vaughn said he has every reason to believe in the plan set forth by GM Rob Hennigan. He likes the young pieces that the team has assembled and he said with more growth next season, the Magic should be in position to make more strides forward.
``I completely believe in the direction that Rob is going in and a lot of the decisions will be left in his hands,’’ Vaughn said. ``But I certainly believe we’re headed in the right direction. Our young guys, they’ve matured and more will be asked of them and demanded of them. I think they want that.’’