Arron Afflalo has been one of the most improved players in the NBA this year. Already this year he is averaging 21.9 points per contest, more than five more than last season. Assists, steals and rebounds are at an all time high as well, all while sharing some of the point guard duty with rookie Victor Oladipo. Conventional thinking said Afflalo would be moved along this season before the trade deadline, in a move designated to keep the rebuilding Magic ticking over. But with Afflalo playing the way he has been, does it not now make sense to reconsider this way of thinking?
Afflalo has quickly become the leader of this team, playing in an efficient manner. When the time comes to take over a game he has the ability to do so, something the Magic desperately need. Although Nikola Vucevic may yet be the franchise player they need, they are 0-4 in games played since he went down injured, every team serious about competing needs high quality guards these days. You only have to look at the surprisingly decent Phoenix Suns and their tandem of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt to see that quality guards are valuable. Yet Victor Oladipo may also be the future in that respect too, but a one-two punch of both the promising rookie and Afflalo could pay dividends further down the road. As of right now, the only real knock on Afflalo’s game is that he is only averaging four assists a game for the season so far. Still plenty of time to improve his career best assist average in the months ahead, but really it is not enough for the facilitator on the team. One reason for this lack of vision with the ball in hand may be the fact that, while a part of the Denver Nuggets, Afflalo was an underrated and under-appreciated cog in a pretty successful machine. Now he is getting the chance to be himself and play on a team where more plays are drawn for him, and where he sees a lot more of the basketball. At 28 years old as well, Afflalo is just entering the real prime of his career.
There is an issue though, one that is becoming more glaring with each impressive performance Afflalo pieces together. Surely the idea all along was to move their starting point guard along to free up time and space for Victor Oladipo to thrive? The plan must have been to trade him away and stockpile some more promising pieces for further down the road? If that is still the plan, then the time has never been better to trade away Arron Afflalo. His stock is at an all time high, and cashing in now makes total sense. Good as he has been, the team is still fairly mediocre, and in Oladipo and Vucevic, there exists a promising core in Orlando anyway. Afflalo is contracted until the 2015-16 season, although that year is a player option on his contract. Still the $21 million or more they would have to pay him if he stuck around could surely be put into better resources? There are cheaper, younger players out there, with better potential but also who come with an element of risk.
Could the Orlando Magic look to built their organisation around Oladipo, Vucevic and Afflalo? It certainly wasn’t part of the plan, and it is hard to see that changing. The play of Afflalo demands you to sit up and take notice though. He has to be considered among the top five in most improved players this season, such has his level of play and numbers increased. Managers talk about the intangibles as well, the attributes that can’t be taught. Afflalo looks to have these too, as well as being the kind of level headed veteran a team needs in their locker room. It may not have been part of the plan, and it would cost Orlando money it doesn’t really want to commit to anybody, but keeping Arron Afflalo around for a while longer may just be one of the better decisions they ever make. But will it happen though?