Debby Wong/USA TODAY
Arron Afflalo came to Orlando seeking an expanded role. Really his career had taken an upward trajectory of larger and larger roles, beginning as a defensive stopper off the bench with Detroit to secondary sharpshooter and scorer for Denver. With the Magic, Afflalo would be asked to be "the guy."
The results were a little bit mixed, as one might expect. He led the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game before Tobias Harris showed up and lit up the Magic world. Until then, Afflalo was clearly the Magic's best offensive option.
That was not always saying much. Afflalo's career high in points per game and field goals attempted per game was also followed by his his worst shooting performance in four years and worst 3-point shooting percentage since his rookie year. Afflalo's usage rate skyrocketed from 19.1 percent to 22.5 percent with the Magic while his effective field goal percentage dropped from 53.4 percent to 47.8 percent, his worst since his rookie year.
Playing this featured offensive role with the Magic took some getting used to. And in his second year, it will take some adjustment.
"Me getting better this year, doesn't necessarily mean me adding new things to my game or expanding my role, but being more and more effective with the things I know I can do well," Afflalo said. "That means knocking down the three at a higher level, shooting a good percentage from the line but actually getting there more. Last year, I had my first experience with having a lot of attention from defenses on the offensive end. Now it is just about picking my spots, being effective and not wasting too much energy."
Afflalo was not the most efficient player last year. As mentioned previously, he shot 43.9 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc. That equated to a 47.8 percent effective field goal percentage, his lowest since his rookie year. He also had a 52.7 percent true shooting percentage. His struggle to get to the free throw line became apparent.
There were certainly areas Afflalo was very good at. He was a very efficient corner 3-point shooter and a decent post player. According to MySynergySports, Afflalo scored 0.95 points per possession on post ups and had 11.6 percent of his plays on post ups.
Jacque Vaughn has been watching this aspect of Afflalo's game. He said he would like to see Afflalo improve his efficiency as he enters this stage of his career and for this team.
The difference now is Afflalo has to create for himself and for others. This was the major adjustment to his role last year. One that the Magic must hope he has improved on to some extent this year.
Afflalo said he wants to try to emphasize the parts of his game that he has been successful at. Hopefully that will help him create opportunities for others as defense load up to stop him. Afflalo said he spent the majority of his summer working on his body so he could carry this heavier load.
The way the Magic are set up, he is not going to be that guy on every play. There are enough players of similar skill level who can share that load. Afflalo is very much going to be one of the guys spearheading the Magic's offense and defense this year.
"It's a tough thing to do in this league to be the focus of every defense every single night," Jacque Vaughn said. "I think it was a great challenge for him at this stage of his career. You really get a chance to understand what you're good at, what you need to improve on and how difficult it is to bear that challenge every night."
Vaughn said throughout camp that Afflalo was one of the better players. He has been impressed with his efficiency and has a better understanding of his role.
That bodes well for the Magic moving forward.
"Really he's kind of spearheaded our aggressiveness, especially on the defensive end of the floor," Vaughn said. "There has been plenty fo scrimmages where he has taken the challenge and guided his team with just aggressive play — whether it is picking the guy up full court or getting a crcuial rebound. I thought the first preseason game, his shot selection was really good. They were all really good shots, really efficient shots. I said earlier in the year, that's going to be his challenge. I thought he has done a really good job so far."
Afflalo's leadership on defense will also be important. He was brought in to the NBA as sort of a defensive specialist. His defensive numbers and reputation have declined somewhat as he has taken on a larger offensive load.
Part of Afflalo's job as one of the primary offensive options is to lead and engage his teammates on the defensive end. Afflalo said his efficiency on offense will help him have more energy on the defensive end.
The year under his belt as the primary option should help him take on that role again this year. Afflalo realizes the kind of shots he took last year were much tougher than the ones he took while he was with Detroit and Denver where he was surrounded by a Playoff-caliber team. Being the offensive option he is with the Magic will take some time to learn.
Afflalo said he has to learn when to pick his spots.
"Obviously I had experience in life, as most players do in this league at some point, at this level it's just much different," Afflalo said. "Mentally I had to calm myself a bit and relax a bit and just enjoy the game and enjoy the challenge. And, most importatly, use my teammates a little bit to be more effective rather trying to play through a double team or, in certain cases, being at the top of the scouting report."
Finding that balance will be the key for Arron Afflalo as he embarks on another season as the team's likely primary offensive option.