There have been many surprises already in this NBA season, ranging from how good the Phoenix Suns have been to how poor the Brooklyn Nets have looked. LaMarcus Aldridge looks to be a legitimate MVP candidate right now and Derrick Rose has once more been lost to injury. Up there with the biggest shocks however has been the great play of Arron Afflalo. Though his Orlando Magic team is currently 7-17, Afflalo has brought it every night and played competitively, his play being the reason for a couple of those wins. But is he good enough to warrant what would be his first All-Star selection?
Before even looking at his statistics and influence in game situations, Afflalo has something very important going for him, timing. Unfortunately for other great point guards in the Eastern Conference, they are off the court injured at the moment. Although a sorry situation for them, Afflalo has pounced on this opportunity to really get his name out there as a player. Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and George Hill are three such players in that situation, with the first two having previously been All-Stars and Hill’s form close to that level before injury. With these names out of the way, it gives Afflalo more of a chance to stand out given that there is less quality to choose from. However, where Afflalo is likely to fall down in the fact that he does not carry much “star power” as a player. Regardless of how well a player is playing, the All-Star Game is a popularity contest, at least where the starters are concerned. Kobe Bryant, for example, is almost a dead cert to start for the Western Conference in New Orleans next year, but he is only back from injury and as yet does not deserve the honor. This is not a knock on Bryant, just a fact given that he has played far fewer games than his counterparts. So Afflalo is likely to struggle with both Kyrie Irving and John Wall currently healthy and carrying far more weight as they are names even casual fans are familiar with and associate with being successful at their position.
Where Afflalo might have the chance to sneak onto the roster, though, is through the bench. Head coaches from around the league make up the remainder of squads for both teams and in the past they have allowed their heads to rule their hearts when making the decision. Luol Deng, for so long an extremely underrated player, finally got his due by being named as an All-Star for the past two years. This came despite the fact Deng’s game is built on the fundamentals, with next to no flash, an approach not suited to the All-Star Game but which didn’t matter to the coaches who recognized that he deserved to play in the game. While there is no denying both Wall and Irving would be deserving of both point guard spots on the team, Irving in particular has not pushed on this season the way many had predicted. A great talent no doubt, but still his team is struggling with mediocrity. Wall is also on a struggling team, but now that he is healthy and the pieces around him are coming together, a playoff spot certainly seems attainable, particularly given how poor the Eastern Conference is at this moment in time. If the All-Star Game was tomorrow, Wall would most likely be given the nod to start.
Arron Afflalo has career highs so far this year in points, rebounds and assists. He is playing the most minutes on a nightly basis he ever has (37.7) although his field goal percentage is down slightly. This can be attributed to the fact he is taking more shots than ever before though. He would deserve it if he was chosen to play, yet still more obstacles stand in his way. The Magic’s record is ugly, and traditionally the exhibition game is where the best of the best hang out. Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks has also emerged as an outside runner to snag a spot too. His 15.9 points per game are almost six less than Afflalo is currently averaging, but his 7.7 assists trumps Afflalo’s four. Add to that the fact the Hawks are third in the Eastern Conference, albeit with only a 12-12 record and Teague himself has a case to be named to the team as well.
Ultimately it seems Afflalo will fall short on being picked to play in his first ever All-Star Game. It is a shame, as this represents the best opportunity he will likely ever have in his career. With so many injuries around the conference at that position, this was his shot. His cause was helped by the fact he was having a career year, but his less well known name and his team’s poor record really stand against him. Afflalo is likely not to care too much, but it would have been a nice bonus for somebody who has embraced the rebuilding happening in Orlando the way that he has. Even crazier, as poor as the Magic’s record is, it is possible that one day, with luck and progress on their side, both Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic could both start for the All-Star team, something that seemed impossible to believe when Dwight Howard skipped town. It doesn’t matter though, as the fact Afflalo is even in the conversation in some circles this year lets Magic fans know their team is on the way back to relevancy.