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Posts Tagged ‘Arron Afflalo’

Essay: Projecting Future Value, Shooting Guards

October 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Rising: James Harden

It’s so easy to look down on a top three overall draft pick when his numbers don’t immediately make television screens spontaneously combust—to jump on his back before maturation is allowed time to settle in, and stamp “BUST” on his forehead. (All the more easy when a player taken with the subsequent pick goes onto have a historically brilliant rookie year.) People don’t have patience. James Harden, armed with bristling beard action and a buttery jump shot, is all about patience. His game, built on all-around methodical consistency—like Paul Pierce and Brandon Roy—depends on it.

When it comes to long term convenience, he’s 22-years-old and firmly entrenched in one of the brightest situations the league has to offer; an argument can be made that he’s the second most untradeable player in the Thunder organization, behind Kevin Durant. He’s already proven he can take over entire quarters at a time in playoff games, and make plays off the dribble that don’t only benefit himself. Hate to light a horse on fire while it’s writhing on the ground, but Harden’s a better decision maker/incredibly less selfish than Russell Westbrook, and it isn’t crazy to say his future may be an even more rewarding one alongside Durant.

Coming off the bench in all but five games last season, Harden was a respectable role player who’d flash brilliance every now and then, but he wasn’t blowing the hinges off anybody’s doors. His style lacked glamour, existing more as sophisticated style hidden beneath a high IQ basketball player who’s just about ready to tornado the league. A few days ago I wrote that there will never be another Scottie Pippen. I stand by that statement, but right now James Harden is the closest thing the league has.

 

Honorable Mention: Marcus Thornton, Eric Gordon, Arron Afflalo

After being traded from New Orleans for Carl Landry, in one of the more honorable trades you’ll ever see, Marcus Thornton’s minutes more than doubled. Subsequently, so did his shots, points, steals, assists, and free-throw attempts per game. He went from a decent second round draft pick to one of the game’s most dynamic scorers, post all-star break—and that isn’t an exaggeration (21.3 points with an 18.2 PER).

What keeps the Marcus Thornton fire from burning strong is a big bucket of water named Jimmer Fredette. The situation in Sacramento should be exciting, but there’s only one basketball to play with, and Jimmer should see that ball quite often. With his confidence sitting on a cloud, Thornton will look to shoot more than he should, unless, of course, the free agent signs somewhere else after the lockout. Putting a proven, reliable, unafraid shooting guard like Thornton on a team that could use reliability from the shooting guard position, like, say, Chicago, could cause more than a few ripples. It makes too much sense.

For Eric Gordon, please see here.

An argument could be made that after the Carmelo trade, Arron Afflalo was the guy George Karl looked to with the game on the line, and his penchant to play hard on both ends should keep him on the floor (especially with no Wilson Chandler/Carmelo/JR Smith three-headed monster to deal with).

Since his first playoff series in 2008, Afflalo has seen his minutes grow from 7.0 to 16.5 to 20.0 to last year’s 28.3. He’s a player who’s constantly improving on skills he struggled with early on in his career (a 20% three-point shooter his rookie year, Afflalo finished tied for sixth league-wide from deep last season), with brimming desire and fearlessness gleaming from his eyes whenever advantageous moments present themselves. He was drafted at the end of the first round in 2007, then flipped two years later for a second round pick, placing one of those handy, metaphorical chips on his shoulder that should only grow as his career continues to mature.

 

Falling: Dorell Wright

Last year Dorell Wright had one of the quietest breakout seasons in recent memory. In his seventh year—the first outside Miami, also known as self-discipline dementia—Wright became a full-time starter for the first time. Naturally, he posted career high averages across the board and led the entire league in both three-point attempts and three-pointers made (!!!). Unfortunately for Wright (and the Warriors organization), he shot a harsh 37%, hardly qualifying as a feared deep threat. By comparison, teammates Steph Curry and Reggie Williams finished with the third and sixth most accurate three-point shooting percentage in the league, relegating Wright to at least the third best deep ball option on his own team (which is, like, sooo not !!! worthy). It was also worse than Keith Bogans. So, yea, there’s that.

When we look closer, maybe Wright didn’t have a breakout season after all. I mean, how many breakout seasons are followed by your team taking a player known for shooting threes and thriving in the same position, two months later in the draft? Many thought the Klay Thompson pick spelled a plane ticket for Monta Ellis, but if Golden State’s management were smart (they are) they’d take Wright, a player who can’t possibly have any better of a year than we just saw, and move him while he’s at the height of his value.

 

Honorable mention: Kobe Bryant 

When it comes to Kobe Bryant having a bounce back year (relatively speaking, for him) there are three things I don’t trust: This, this, and, most importantly, this.

 

Commentary: To All The Nonbelievers

The loss of five Nuggets a couple weeks ago was met with several different reactions: Carmelo Anthony (knife in the back), Chauncey Billups (insult to injury), Renaldo Balkman (happy face), Anthony Carter (…), and Shelden Williams (multiple backflips on a trampoline). A couple weeks ago when the Denver Nuggets pulled off the type of franchise revamping trade that can cause mass revolt, people were upset. Their GM said they got “killed” in the deal, and instead of waiting, calling Anthony’s bluff, and hoping he’d sign a three-year extension for the only professional team he’s every known, Denver shipped Carmelo to New York for some really young, really interesting players. The results for both team so for have been telling. New York is 3-2, with legitimate wins over Miami and New Orleans, but a loss to Cleveland; Denver is 5-1 with their only defeat coming at the hands of a Brandon Roy miracle three-pointer. So what gives? How can the Nuggets keep rolling people over without a true “superstar”?

This quote by Nuggets coach George Karl in an interview on the The Dan Patrick Show:

“You guys must think I’m crazy but I think we’re good. I had one practice with them, and I’m going ‘whoa!’ What always kind of mystifies me about this world of basketball is there’s so many brilliant minds in basketball; there’s so many guys that believe in the zone or believe in the triangle-and-two, or believe in the slow-down offense, or believe in the fast passing game offense — there’s so many ways to build a philosophy and win. But it seems like in the NBA you can only win with super stars. And I don’t believe that. I’ve always coached kind of doing what everybody else does, I do different. When I went to Seattle, nobody trapped and nobody did anything, so we fronted the post, and we double-teamed post-ups, and we doubled 40 or 50 percent of possessions a game and that worked. I just think why can’t you build a team where you don’t have a top-five player, but maybe a top-20 player at every position. That’s kind of what I’m thinking we’re going to be. We might not have an All Star, but at every position and maybe even have a bench that has more versatility and explosiveness than anybody else. So you have six or seven weapons, you might not have a superstar weapon, but you have good weapons. And then play hard, play defense, and be the most unselfish basketball team that you can be, because team wins more often than talent in this league anyways.”

What I really like about this team is their point guard play. With no Carmelo Anthony serving as the team’s offensive focal point, Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton are able to play together and really force the issue in transition. In the very first game after becoming a permanent starter, Lawson scored 21 points to go along with five rebounds, seven assists, and six (!) steals. His only two 10 assist games of the year have come in the past two weeks, and brighter things look to be on the horizon.

National pundits are salivating over Denver. At first I figured it to be some manifestation of pity, but after watching the team’s hidden, talented bench pieces (Arron Afflalo) step up and compete alongside the young, more than serviceable newcomers (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler) I was convinced. This trade didn’t make the Denver Nuggets a motionless fringe playoff team, it propelled them in a positive direction. And now, despite having no consistent 20 point scorer and no person on the roster who can close out tight games in the final seconds, the Nuggets are dangerous, unpredictable, and a squad able to run the table in a wide open Western Conference.

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