Arron Afflalo was in Barcelona for an NBA clinic last week when the phone call came. Well, phone call might be metaphorical. It was more like a crawl going across the screen or an update going up on ESPN. Afflalo was on the Internet when ESPN reported he had been traded to Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard deal. Before that, he had not even followed the Howard rumors and trade discussions.
To his surprise, he found himself in the middle of it all in the end. And now he finds himself with a new opportunity in Orlando.
“It’s exciting for me. It’s a change,” Afflalo said as he was introduced to the media Thursday. “Change always brings mystery, it always brings doubt. But at the same time, from a positive outlook, it brings a lot of opportunity and a lot of room for growth. And that is the light that I feel most of people in the organization are looking at it and that’s the way we’re going to move forward.”
It is kind of hard to call anyone the “centerpiece” of the Dwight Howard deal for the Magic. They were not going after a replacement star it seems and were looking to take a step back by bringing in hard-working, young players to move around in future deals or as potential secondary pieces once the rebuilding is complete. Afflalo seems to fit that mold perfectly, and his three-year $7.75 million salary seems palatable for this rebuilding team moving forward.
Last year, Afflalo averaged a career-best 15.2 points per game last season in an increased role with the post-Carmelo Anthony Nuggets. His field goal percentage dropped only slightly with the increased field goal attempts as he shot 47.1 percent from the floor and shot a 53.4 percent effective field goal percentage. His PER last year was a career-best 14.7. This was on 12.1 field goal attempts per game, a number that is likely to increase this year with the Magic as Afflalo should quickly become one of the team’s best offensive options.
Opportunity has always been something Afflalo has had to grab when it was before him.
He was the 27th overall pick of the Pistons in 2007 and worked his way into their rotation as a rookie because of his defensive prowess. His role for that team was all about fitting into their defensive schemes and making shots when the opportunity presented itself. His offensive game grew slowly, but his defense kept him on the floor. He was traded to Denver in July 2009 and took advantage of that new opportunity, and an increased offensive role, playing alongside Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
Afflalo said he really gained confidence in his abilities during that time playing alongside veterans like Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony, Nene and Kenyon Martin. When Anthony was traded, it was just another opportunity to expand his game and his role on the team.
It is safe to say that in his first full year without Anthony, Afflalo was able to do that.