It's time once again for our annual series "30Q" in which we answer 30 questions over the course of September as we get ready for the upcoming season.
Last week I wrote about Ty Lawson and argued that he was the most interesting of the Kings’ offseason signings. On the opposite end of the spectrum lies Arron Afflalo, a 30 year old veteran shooting guard signed to basically a one-and-half year deal (Only $1.5 million of his $12.5 million is guaranteed his second season). Afflalo was an unheralded NBA prospect coming out of UCLA, but has carved himself a solid career. He has never seemed to stick with one team, but he’s been too good to consider a journeyman.
As for the Kings, its been a long search for stability at shooting guard ever since Kevin Martin was traded. There have been promising moments, for sure. Originally, Tyreke Evans was the heir apparent at the spot, but the Kings never could decide on what his best position was. Marcus Thornton started his Kings career with a bang, showing explosive scoring ability while Evans was hurt. Unfortunately, by the time the spot was his for good, Thornton failed to recapture his dynamite form. He ceded the spot to rookie Ben McLemore, who proceeded to have an awful rookie season. McLemore showed signs of life his second year, but after Mike Malone was fired, he’s been a trainwreck ever since. The Kings did sign the veteran shooter Marco Belinelli last offseason, but he forgot how to shoot somewhere on the plane ride to Sacramento.
Afflalo is going to walk onto this roster and claim the starting shooting guard spot without problems. Despite drawing the ire of Knicks fans all last season, Afflalo still has far more to offer than what the Kings have trotted out for the last six seasons. Afflalo still has the skillset to be a productive offensive roleplayer next season.
Solid comparative efficiency all over the court with no glaring weaknesses. Afflalo is particularly good at the corner three, a necessary skill for roleplayers in today’s NBA.
However, Afflalo was not, overall, as efficient as you want to be. His TS% is 0.531, roughly league average, on only 17.9% USG. His offensive rating is a middling 105. The reason is because in New York, Afflalo liked to hang out in the midrange area, mostly to fit into Phil’s Triangle offense.
The amount of offense that came from two point range outside of 10 feet is absurdly high, both catch-and-shoot and pull-up attempts. Again, this was mostly because New York forced the Triangle offense on the roster, but its still something to be ironed out.
Another important note is that Afflalo developed into a featured offensive player somewhere along the line in his career. The remnants of that mindset showed up for the Knicks, as Afflalo spent way too much time calling his own number by posting up and pounding the ball.
Afflalo had a bad habit of pounding the rock at times, killing ball movement and tanking his own efficiency. Dave Joerger’s project is to get Afflalo to buy-in to a reduced role, where he can be far more choosy when to attack. He needs to move his offense out to three point range, which will have the double benefit of raising his own efficiency and providing space for DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay to operate. Afflalo’s best moments last season came when he wasn’t pounding the ball, but spotting up and aggressively taking what the defense gave up.
Afflalo’s best moments last season came in situations like this, where he was mostly shooting off the catch or attacking the rotation off the dribble.
But that’s only half the equation. The defense… yikes. Afflalo came into the NBA with the reputation of being a defensive stalwart and even built his early career on being a 3&D specialist. But those days are long gone.
There’s no real definitive defensive stat, but when most of them paint you in an awful light, you’re not playing good defense.
Going to the film, it looks like he’s lost mental sharpness on defense. Watch him (#4 on the Knicks) just fall asleep as his man moves to get an open shot.
And then here, its clear that his job is to ICE this pick-and-roll by shading his defender to the baseline away from the screener. Instead, he leaves his big man out to dry by letting Harden use the screen and get right into the middle of the lane. Afflalo gets destroyed by the screen and Harden gets a clean jumper. Just terrible defensive execution.
And his legs look completely shot. Run him through a bunch of screens and he simply can't keep up. Track Afflalo (#4 on the Knicks) fall hopelessly behind Klay Thompson and J.J. Redick as they get clean looks running off of multiple screens.
When he doesn’t have to move long distances or navigate through a forest of screens, Afflalo can get into his stance and play solid defense. He can still cover short spaces in bursts, like here, where he keeps Harden out on the perimeter and gets a solid contest on his jumper.
But Joerger has a pretty tall task in getting this team to play solid defense with Afflalo in the backcourt. That problem is going to be doubled if Ty Lawson is Afflalo’s partner back there. And then there’s the issue of convincing Afflalo to dial it back on offense. Last season, he was strangely benched for Sasha Vujacic of all people and was not happy about it. Again, the Kings don’t have a stable locker room right now. They can ill-afford that kind of dissension from roleplayers.
But that’s why they pay Joerger the big bucks. Afflalo doesn’t need to be a superstar, and the nature of his contract makes me suspect that the Kings don’t expect him to. He’s not going to lock down the shooting guard spot for years to come. But with Bogdan Bogdanovic developing oversees and Malachi Richardson soaking in NBA experience on the bench, the future could come pretty quickly.