Is there hope for Arron Afflalo?

After nine games of meh, Arron Afflalo finally played a good game in a Knick uniform. While it came in a disastrous overtime loss, his strong play was an encouraging sign. He won’t drop 31 points a night, but there are things he can build on.

The most important thing he should take away is the importance of getting to the line. He shot four free throws on Sunday, not Harden-esque by any means, but it was a drastic improvement from his first nine games, when he averaged a depressing 0.6 free throw attempts per game. Sunday’s effort boosted his average to almost one whole attempt! Onward and upward.

Big caveat: It wasn’t like Afflalo was diving into the lane. Both his trips to the line came after he was fouled on jump shots, which as Clyde will tell you, is a cardinal sin, and not something he can count on defenders doing all the time. In fact, 9 of his 13 makes came from mid-range, per NBA.com. Looking at his shot chart, five of those came from the corner, only a step or two away from being delicious corner threes.

View post on imgur.com

And it’s not as if he lacks range; Afflalo is shooting a very healthy 39% from distance, and has always been a good three-point shooter. Take a step back next time Arron!

This love of mid-range jumpers is a troubling late-career trend. In his first five years in the NBA, Afflalo took 26% of his attempts at the rim and 36% from three. Since leaving Denver the first time, his attempts from the Morey erogenous zones dropped to 17% and 28%, respectively, meaning he started taking a lot more mid-rangers. Not coincidentally, he also became a much less effective player.

% of FGA by Distance
Season Tm G MP 2P 0-3 3-10 10-16 16 <3 3P
2007-08 DET 75 970 .801 .332 .054 .129 .286 .199
2008-09 DET 74 1234 .643 .240 .023 .070 .310 .357
2009-10 DEN 82 2221 .574 .258 .056 .079 .181 .426
2010-11 DEN 69 2324 .604 .241 .132 .077 .155 .396
2011-12 DEN 62 2086 .684 .272 .142 .107 .163 .316
2012-13 ORL 64 2307 .735 .175 .128 .202 .230 .265
2013-14 ORL 73 2552 .703 .157 .081 .161 .304 .297
2014-15 TOT 78 2502 .623 .124 .136 .161 .202 .377
2014-15 DEN 53 1750 .630 .117 .148 .170 .195 .370
2014-15 POR 25 752 .604 .145 .101 .132 .225 .396
2015-16 NYK 10 309 .710 .145 .137 .194 .234 .290
Career 587 16505 .669 .203 .106 .136 .224 .331
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/1/2015.

You might say, “Well, Myles, if that’s the way he’s played for the last three years, that’s the way he’s going to keep playing.” First of all, that’s an awful familiar tone, Internet Stranger, but you may be right. However, Afflalo turned some of those clunky mid-rangers into sexy three-pointers last season in Denver and Portland, before reverting to old ways in New York. I’m holding out hope that good coaching can coax him back out.

To end on a good note, Afflalo took great care of the ball on Sunday, continuing a season-long trend. He sports a svelte TOV% of 6.6 despite a healthy amount of freelancing; his usage rate is 20% and only 36% of his two-point attempts have been assisted. He was one of the few players not coughing up the ball. The normally sticky-fingered Bockers had 21 turnovers against the Rockets, which totally lost them the game. Woops, couldn’t end on a good note.

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26 thoughts to “Is there hope for Arron Afflalo?”

  1. Nice piece, but has anyone been thinking there’s no hope for Afflalo?

    I think he’s been fine. TS is down for him but it seems probably due to his FT/FGA being literally 1/4 of his career average. Some of that might be Triangle related but probably is just a small sample size thing. His shooting percentages are all pretty close to his career averages. He’s an absolute beast in the post (1.24 PPP this year which is the highest of any player with >10 post-up possessions) — small sample but he has historically been a great post-up player so I don’t think it’s just a small sample size effect.

    We finally have at least 3 players (Melo, KP, Afflalo) who can be counted on to create a good shot AND not be a complete liability on defense (hello Amare!).

    And for those thinking KP is still a low-efficiency player — yes that’s true(ish – since his TS is steadily climbing) but his shooting off screens is a sight to behold. They can probably get that anytime they want. They weren’t doing it much earlier in the season but they seem to be getting him a couple looks like that every game recently.

    by the way – totally arbitrarily picking the last 10 games — his TS is 56.3 in the last 10 games.

  2. Afflalo is a really likeable guy and from some of his comments to smarter journalists like Herring and Lowe, he would probably be a better coach than Fisher right now. But even if he modestly tilts his scatter chart behind the line as you rightly hope he might, he maxes out as a pretty marginal value at this point in his career. I see him as below average in pretty much every aspect of the game (defense, rebounding, passing) besides creating efficient shots, and even shooting over 35% of his shots from three still isn’t all that efficient a shot creator if he is no longer getting to the line, which is starting to seem likely. I think he can still have some value as so-so shot creator and three point shooter who isn’t horrible at anything, but only in the right lineup (they need to play him with their offensively inept backups not with Calderon and Melo!). And even then I don’t think he’s worth much and mainly hope he doesn’t opt-in an take up $8 million of next year’s cap room.

  3. Afflalo is literally 1 season removed from putting up a (per-36) season of 18 points, 3.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and shooting >40% from 3. That season the only 2 other players who did that were Stephen Curry and Patty Mills (!). If you like TS% instead of shooting 40%, the list gets longer — but here are the players who put up 18/3.5/3.5 with a TS>57:

    Durant
    Lebron
    Love
    Curry
    Harden
    Griffin
    CP3
    Ginobili
    Mills
    Afflalo

    Is he a great defender? Not really. But he’s not obviously a bad defender, is not a complete zero other than scoring, and he has some actual offensive skill.

  4. they need to play [Afflalo] with their offensively inept backups not with Calderon and Melo

    I like that idea. I’d be interested in seeing how these work:
    1st unit: Calderon, Galloway, Anthony, Porzingis, O’Quinn
    2nd unit: Grant, Afflalo, Williams, Amundson, Lopez

    Galloway would better compliment Calderon’s weak D. O’Qinn’s superior passing might make him a better fit than Lopez in the more triangular 1st unit. Amundson gives Thomas’ effort and hustle with a lower usage that would open more room for Afflalo’s offense.

  5. I believe in starting your best 5, which includes Afflalo – but as others have pointed out here often, why not just stagger minutes?? Bring Galloway in at the 7 minute mark for Afflalo and then bring Afflalo back in when Melo sits at the 2 minute mark.

  6. I’m not sure why people are so hard on Afflalo. His offense is clearly good enough that other teams have to defend him, he’s a reasonable defender, he makes what is probably now a normal salary for a starter and he really wanted to come to NY. When Melo was out, he helped the scoring significantly. I don’t think he’s great for the position he plays, but he’s Ok. I can live with that.

  7. I’m not sure why people are so hard on Afflalo. His offense is clearly good enough that other teams have to defend him, he’s a reasonable defender, he makes what is probably now a normal salary for a starter and he really wanted to come to NY. When Melo was out, he helped the scoring significantly. I don’t think he’s great for the position he plays, but he’s Ok. I can live with that.

    Agree 100%. Afflalo has actually been a relatively positive surprise for me so far. I was a bit worried given the trends in his play the last couple years, but so far we have gotten exactly what we paid for – veteran competency at a reasonable price. Myles is right that like the rest of the team he could use a little redistribution of his shots to more profitable areas, but I think there’s a lot to like about his play so far.

  8. Afflalo is literally 1 season removed from putting up a (per-36) season of 18 points, 3.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and shooting >40% from 3. That season the only 2 other players who did that were Stephen Curry and Patty Mills

    I don’t know if “literally” is the word you were looking for, considering that season ended 18 months ago and began over 2 years ago. He was 27 when it began and he is over 30 now. So all those stats and comps are (literally) moot.

  9. Afflalo is literally 1 season removed from putting up a (per-36) season of 18 points, 3.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and shooting >40% from 3.

    Small problem. He was 28 and got to the line 4.7/36. That is not who he is today. The 28-30 age gap is sometimes significant; plus 4.7/36 was his career high and well above his average. He will almost surely never get to the rim that often again. And, BTW, his BPM in that supposedly great year was -0.6, which is quite weak even if you concede it may have punished him too much for Orlando’s poor defense. But Afflalo’s teams have almost always been worse defensively when he’s on the floor than off it. I don’t think he’s terrible by any means, and he should definitely play on this team, but I don’t think he’s even moderately likely to be worth $8m next year even with the cap jump (though he’ll probably get it).

  10. O’Quinn as a starter? Come on now! He’s not even good enough to play on our second unit.

    Why?
    Lopez: VORP= 0.2; WS/48=.055; BPM=-0.3; TRB%=13.7; BLK%=3.5; TS%=4.85; USG%=17.1; TOV%=20.1
    KOQ: VORP= 0.2; WS/48= .094; BPM= 1.8; TRB%=18.0; BLK%=5.6; TS%=4.62; USG%=19.7; TOV%=17.2

    My eye test: O’Quinn is a better passer, rebounder, and more sure handed than Lopez. They have similar high BBIQs and are similarly effective in their primary roles as rim/paint protectors. Neither can create their own shot. Lopez has a more consistently high motor.

    Is KOQ as good as or better than Lopez, all things being equal? I don’t think so. I assume O’Quinn’s numbers are inflated by playing against inferior players, though I also suspect KOQ would shoot less and have a better shot selection playing with the first unit. I like Lopez a lot and think his contributions are not well captured by stats. If “deserves to start” is the decision criterion, then I’d start Lopez. But I think that “fits best with unit” might be as good a reason to put players together as rewarding them with the prestige of being a starter. And I think O’Quinn might be a better fit with Calderon, Galloway, Anthony and Porzingis. I’m not sure he is a better fit. I’m just curious to see how that unit would work.

    In any case, it’s not at all clear to me why O’Quinn gets as little PT as he does.

  11. Afflalo is a place-holder for this season and probably next season until the Knicks can figure out a long-term solution at SG. As a stopgap guy on a middling team that is trying to balance short term competence with long term roster flexibility he’s perfectly cast. He won’t kill you out there and he will at least play with some intelligence and professionalism.

    I do think Afflalo should be playing more with the second unit, and that the Knicks should be especially looking to get him post-up opportunities when he is out there with some of the more offensively challenged lineups.

  12. RoLo looks like a fish out of water on this team, just does not look like a good fit here at all. I’m starting to worry about that acquisition. His numbers have cratered by just about every possible metric.

  13. I love Affalo on this team and hopes he picks up his option. I don’t care what the stats say. I thought he would just be a more consistent if less flashy JR but he is more than that. He has an amazing post game. Probably one of the best in the league for a SG. He is in constant motion and his shots are almost always open shots.

  14. @13 I’m worried too, but I wish Fisher would just give him the starter’s minutes he was clearly brought here for so we could get a better idea. It’s not like Seraphin brings something to the table that RoLo doesn’t.

  15. I wish Fisher would just give him the starter’s minutes he was clearly brought here for so we could get a better idea

    He’s playing about 25 mpg; only a couple less than Porzingis and Calderon. Do you think he might play better if Fisher upped that to 30? I think a lot of his value depends on his motor. Plus, it’s a long season and he plays against the biggest bangers. He and the team are probably well served by keeping his minutes close to where they are now, IMO.

  16. “RoLo looks like a fish out of water on this team, just does not look like a good fit here at all. I’m starting to worry about that acquisition. His numbers have cratered by just about every possible metric.”
    He’s not aesthetically pleasing by any stretch but, on a per 36 basis, he’s averaging a career high in defensive rebounds and second highest in total rebounds. He’s also averaging 2-1/2 times his career high in assists at 2.9/36 and is at or near his career best in defensive rating. His fit in the offense needs some work and they need to find a way to get him a couple more shots at the rim each game but, overall, he’s been fine. He is what he is — an energy guy who does whatever the teams asks him to do, doesn’t care about how many shots a game he gets and doesn’t seem to care if the coach decides to sit him on the bench in crunch time. I also think that he’s a real good fit with Porzingis. Plus, with the tendency of the Knicks’ guards to let their guys get by them, it’s important to have both him and Porzingis to clog the lane and protect the rim.

  17. He’s playing about 25 mpg; only a couple less than Porzingis and Calderon. Do you think he might play better if Fisher upped that to 30? I think a lot of his value depends on his motor. Plus, it’s a long season and he plays against the biggest bangers. He and the team are probably well served by keeping his minutes close to where they are now, IMO.

    But it’s not like he’s losing minutes to productive players, quite the opposite. This is the fewest amount of minutes he’s played in three seasons so he can clearly play more. I have no idea if he can play better with more minutes, but his most productive season was 2013-2014 when he played a career high in minutes. So it’s worth finding out at the expense of Tubby Seraphin.

  18. But it’s not like he’s losing minutes to productive players, quite the opposite.

    I’m not sure what you mean by Lopez being more productive than the guys backing him up. Per 36, O’Quinn and Seraphin have more points (12.3, 14.5 vs. 10.3) and blocks (2.6, 2.3 vs. 1.6) and O’Quinn, though not Seraphin, has more rebounds (11.9, 7.5 vs. 9.1). They’re all similarly inefficient scorers. I think O’Quinn is still fairly young at 25 and may have potential to grow in an offense where his passing skills out the post are potentially a major asset. So, I’d rather Seraphin’s minutes go to O’Quinn.

  19. RoLo is taking more unassisted shots because Calderon loves posting him up after running a meaningless high PNR or dribble hand off with him for the first 15 seconds of possessions which at best yield a Calderon mid-range pull up (which I guess has been pretty efficient all things considered). We need a guard that can penetrate and create and operate as a PNR ball handler to get good offensive value for RoLo. He’s been really good defensively thus far this year and as per usual our team rebounds far better with him on the floor than when he sits.

  20. Lopez DRB% and TRB% are both slightly up, but his TS% has sunk like a stone and his turnovers are way up. Overall he has not been very productive.

  21. Also , I forget the site — it may have been P&T and one of the Portland sites — but Lopez has consistently increased his team’s (and his frontcourt partner’s) rebounding rates. Both LMA’s and Kristap’s reb%s fall by a fair bit without him, for example. This matches the eye test where he consistently boxes his man even if RoLo himself is close to the ball.

    It doesn’t take much for a Robin Lopez type center to go from productive on offense to a negative. Using him like Pau Gasol in the high post is definitely one way to do that. lol. Get this man some rim rolls with Jerian! Get this man on the weakside of a melo post up on the strong-side triangle! We are far from using him right on offense, and this goes back to having no good point guards to entry to the REAL post threats better and to execute high pick and rolls better.

  22. also i’m well aware of the futility of most “well player X isn’t being optimized by this scheme” arguments, especially on this board.

    But when you think about what it takes to say, notch a TS% a few points higher for a player who isn’t shooting much, very minimal changes — a few better shots replacing a few worse shots, or simply just elimination of a few worse shots — can go a long ass way.

    Also on a semi related note, Kristaps is far from being utilized properly. We don’t have to talk about this now cause he’s still killin and everyones on the wagon right now, but a lot of the same points about point guards and rolo on offense apply to Kris.

  23. @20 exactly. RoLo needs a guard to penetrate and set him up. The buckets he got in Portland off Lillard driving and dishing just aren’t there with Calderon. I wonder if RoLo would have more success offensively playing with Grant.

  24. @20 It seems like Fisher has done a better job of staggering the minutes so that when RoLo comes back in during the 2nd quarter he gets some run with Grant at point. The run yesterday that gave us a double digit lead actually started then. If Grant improves Fisher will give him more opportunity to play with the starting frontcourt and that may yield better results from RoLo.

    I’d be perfectly happy with Afflalo opting in at $8m next year. That cap space isn’t going to mean shit when Terrence freaking Ross get $11m/yr from all time great GM Masai Ujiri. The market for even marginal wing talent, and I think Afflalo is certainly quite a bit better than marginal or replacement level, is crazy inflated right now.

  25. Kristaps is far from being utilized properly

    This. He would be deadly on a pick and roll with any of Galloway/Calderon/Grant. It kills me that we don’t have much PNR with these guys!!

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