After a 24-58 season, the New Jersey Nets will have to make some changes heading into 2012. This week, Nets are Scorching takes a closer look at some soon-to-be-available names.
Name: Arron Afflalo
Stats: 69 G, 69 GS, 33.7, MPG, 12.6 PPG, 2.4 APG, 3.7 RPG, .5 SPG, .4 BPG, .498 FG%, .423 3FG%, .847 FT%, 123 ORtg, 13.6 PER
Why Billy King Should Be Texting Him Right Now (Tamper): Arron Afflalo is not a name that seemingly leaps off the page, as he’s not an “all-star” or even a pretend all-star who’s going to single-handedly put behinds in seats. But what he might be is the best overall shooting guard on the open market, filling a desperate need for the Nets.
As a team, the Nets demonstrated a major weakness at the two “wing” positions, SG and SF. For the season, Nets SGs collectively put up a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 11.4, well below the league average of 15.0. At SF, they were even worse, putting up a PER of 9.1, which is so far-below replacement, it made me long for the days of Yi getting 30 minutes per game at the PF slot.
Afflalo, mostly a SG by trade, though he can play some SF in small line-ups, would bring one of the league’s most efficient offensive players to the Nets. His offensive rating of 122.8 (which accounts for the points he creates per 100 possessions) was 6th overall in the NBA this past season, and his effective field goal percentage, which includes three-point field goals, of .581 percent, was 3rd best in the league.
Additionally, Afflalo has earned a reputation around the league for being a very good defender. That’s important because the Nets didn’t have anyone at the SG position who could play lockdown defense. People might look at Afflalo’s offensive stats and see him as a three-point specialist and ask “why pay this guy more money to start when Anthony Morrow is an even better long-range specialist,” but Morrow has never had the reputation for stopping anyone. And if the Nets are going to make the jump to a playoff team, they need more two-way players who have demonstrated they can handle the pressure of starting every game each season, while being assigned to guard, in all likelihood, the other team’s best offensive player at the SG position.
Don’t Risk the Fine (Avoid): I have to be fair. I routinely killed the team’s use of Stephen Graham as a “defensive specialist” all season because there was nothing statistically that showed he was the elite defender Avery Johnson pegged him as. And when I look at Afflalo’s defensive numbers from the past season, you see a similar situation. This past season, opposing SGs had a cumulative PER of 16.2 when Afflalo was on the court and Denver had a better defensive efficiency rating with Afflalo off the court (106.7 points per 100 possessions) compared with him on the court (109.8 points per 100 possessions).
And as efficient as Afflalo is offensively, he’s not someone who’s going to take over a game in any way, something that the Nets desperately lacked all season. His usage rate of 13.7 was 10th lowest at the SG position. In other words, he’s not particularly good at creating his own shot. He’s best equipped to roam the perimeter and be on the receiving end of kick-outs from Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. In other words, he’s a carbon copy offensively of Anthony Morrow, who’s already on this team and stands to make well-less than what Afflalo will command on the open market.
And the Winner Is … Tamper: Afflalo really intrigues me as a potential answer for the SG position this upcoming summer. I’m not overly concerned by some of the statistical blips we’ve seen defensively, as Denver as a whole was a team in roster transition this entire season and it might be hard to gauge one individual player’s defensive performance from team off court/on court numbers. The point is Afflalo is a more defensively-tested version of Anthony Morrow, and a player who has routinely started on playoff-bound teams. I think it’s incredibly important for the Nets front office to chase after well-rounded players who can buy into a hard-nosed defensive system next season. Outside of Atlanta, all of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this past season played fantastic defense. I’m firmly convinced that between DWill and Brook, the team will have more than enough opportunities to score points next season, but they don’t have enough players on their roster who can stop an opposing player. Maybe Afflalo’s prowess is overblown, but he’s been around long enough to earn it, and if you combine Afflalo with a similar-minded player at SF, even Damion James if he could ever stay healthy, and the Nets suddenly look like one of the better defensive teams in the league next season.