Can Afflalo push the Blazers ahead of the pack?
The acquisition of Arron Afflalo is perfect for the Portland Trail Blazers. He can score, play efficient offense without the ball and has developed a stout defensive game as well. By acquiring Afflalo (and Gee) for a slender price, which included Thomas Robinson, Will Barton, Victor Claver, a protected first-round pick and second rounder, Neil Olshey have signaled that Portland’s intentions revolve around a championship.
This off-season, LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez are all set to hit free agency. Plus, they’re set to receive hefty pay rises. For the Blazers to retain these free agents whom may be tempted by the lure of added dollars elsewhere, obtaining Afflalo (and Gee) is crucial for Rip City’s hope of retaining their trio entering restricted free agency.
Afflalo, who was touted as a potential All-Star as short ago as last season with Orlando, will play an imperative role as a scoring sixth-man. Gee meanwhile, the lesser discussed aspect to the title-contending trade, will be required to guard multiple positions, with Terry Stotts ready to make the most of his defensive proficiency.
Adding Afflalo and Gee in place of Robinson, Claver and Barton, who all made a marginal impact for the Blazers will increase the win total, but there’s something even more important. This trade opens up a roster spot that Olshey can use to potentially sign a bought-out player.
— KuniLexusofPortland (@lexusofportland) February 20, 2015
With all that in mind, let’s analyze what impact Afflalo, Gee and the open roster spot will have in determining whether the Blazers walk away with a Larry O’Brien trophy or a mid-to-late first round pick.
Does Afflalo give the Blazers the best 3-way guard rotation in the league?
Portland’s bench scoring has been awful for three years. It’s getting continually better, the Trail Blazer bench scored 18.5 points in the 2012/13 season then increased this output to 23.6 points in the 2013/14 season. However, they were ranked 30th and worst in the league on both occasions.
This year, it’s not much better. The additions of Chris Kaman and Steve Blake have aided an onerous position, as the Blazers are ranked 28th, scoring just 25.8 a game.
Arron Afflalo will immediately help the Blazers bench scoring. He can create off the dribble, and fit into Portland’s three-point philosophy, a team that attempts the 2nd most three-point attempts with 27.8 per game. Afflalo is a 46% field goal and 38% three-point shooter throughout the course of his career. This puts him on the same level percentage-wise as Wesley Matthews throughout his career, while his shooting stats are already greater than Lillard’s.
Excluding his first two seasons in Detroit where he was seldom used, Afflalo is averaging 14.3 points per game over the course of his career. He’ll be the best option easily for the Blazers off the bench, where if he were able to score at least 12-13 points each game it’d take a little bit of the scoring burden off the starting 5. No Blazer starter currently scores over 10 points per game, so they inclusion of Afflalo is necessary from an offensive standpoint.
In Denver, only 18% of Afflalo’s shots came as open from the three-point line. 40% of Portland’s shots are considered as open shots from beyond the three-point line. This is mainly due to the attention that is paid to LaMarcus Aldridge and even Wesley Matthews while posting-up, with an easy kick-out to an open shooter. Afflalo will find easier, open shots in the Trail Blazers system, which could potentially increase not only his individual stats, but Portland’s overall offensive efficiency by adding another talented shooter.
Afflalo isn’t a one-trick pony on offense either, as he averages 2.6 assists per 36 minutes over his career. In Portland’s system, one that prides itself on ball movement and quick passing to open up shooters and passing lanes, Afflalo will thrive with playing with a group of players that can knock down three’s. This is extremely relevant, seeing as Portland are 7th in the league in three-point percentage, while the Denver Nuggets are ranked 28th.
Much like the Iron Man, Wesley Matthews, Afflalo is a talented two-way player as well.
He won’t get anyone excited with his defensive abilities, but he’s efficient in guarding the 2 and the 3 positions. Afflalo is a lockdown and hard-nosed defender like Matthews, who’ll give Terry Stotts more flexibility on defense when assigning match-ups.
Picking up Afflalo through trade could also prove as valuable insurance for Nicolas Batum. As the Blazers bench has been painfully bad, Batum who is playing through a wrist injury can’t afford to take extended time off. Afflalo can step right into a starting role if need be, which would allow Batum to get himself right for the playoff run.
This is an underrated aspect to the trade, which on the surface looks like a move to acquire added depth.
Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard have already been touted as a potential top back-court in the league, now with Afflalo in the fold, the Blazers have the best 3-man back-court rotation.
Alonzo Gee and an open roster spot, what does it mean?
Gee is now with his fifth team in 7 months, so could he really carve out a role with Portland?
For me, the answer is yes. In the minutes that he’ll have available to him, which will most likely be what Allen Crabbe once had, he’ll be primarily be used as a defensive specialist.
“We talked every time we played against them in Denver. I told him I was a fan of the way he played,” “Every time I played against him he made it hard for me, picking me up full court. He’s a really good defender.” – Damian Lillard, Well travelled Alonzo Gee
Gee is a talented athlete and elite defender. Stotts will either use Matthews or Gee to guard the opposing teams best player each game. Having Gee in fold allows Stotts to relieve Matthews of a potential burden in guarding the opposing teams best player while in foul trouble.
The sample size is minimal, as he only takes 0.6 three-point attempts per game, but he’s shooting 41.7% from range this season. He won’t be relied upon to hit the three-ball, but if he can knock down the long-range bomb at that clip, he’ll be an underrated part of Portland’s title-contending arsenal.
The open roster spot is now a luxury for Neil Olshey. The luxury doesn’t look like it’ll be filled for some time, as Olshey is reportedly happy with the overall make-up of his roster.
This won’t be mean that the spot isn’t filled. As a need presents itself, such as weak front-court depth or an extra point guard, the Portland GM can fill as he sees fit. Whether this be through a player that is bought-out of his contract, or a promising D-league player, Olshey now has the ability to gain another player out of the trade.
Portland is now all-in on a championship run this season. With Aldridge, Matthews, Lopez and Afflalo all coming out of contract this off-season, they’ve got some decisions to be made, but the Blazer focus is more short-term.
And that focus involves bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy back to the actual most northern city in the NBA, Portland.
The player I am today — one that can give you 15 PPG and play shutdown defense — is ready for this new journey. I’m looking forward to growing and building with this team. I’m looking forward to experiencing a deeper playoff run together.
As excited as I am about this opportunity, I want to make this clear: I’m here to help this team reach its goal of winning a title. It’s been 38 years since the Trail Blazers last won an NBA championship. It isn’t just enough to be a contender — it’s time for us to show the media, fans and most importantly, ourselves, why we’re a championship-caliber team. – Arron Afflalo, Portland, Here I Come
Thank you for loving Aussie hoops! From Kein, Damian and #TeamPnR