LaMarcus Aldridge Damian Lillard Nicolas Batum Robin Lopez Wesley Matthews
Giving Arron Afflalo a fair review is tricky. He only played 25 regular season and 3 postseason games in a Portland Trail Blazers uniform. He was supposed to come in as a leader of the bench scoring unit in relief of Wesley Matthews, yet was forced into the starting role with Matthews' injury.
On the other hand, this is Afflalo's eighth season in the league. Portland gave up a young playmaker in Will Barton, two other players, and a first-round pick for him. With first-round picks becoming even more valuable in the new NBA, this cost mandated a return. Portland paid for a prince, sadly they got a pauper.
Portland was looking for the shredding shooting guard that annihilated competition in the middle months of the season. In January, during one of the hardest stretches for the Denver Nuggets, Afflalo averaged 16.4 points per game across 16 games, failing to score in double-figures just three times. He scored a season-high 34 against Minnesota and fired off 20-point games versus San Antonio, New Orleans, and Memphis. He wasn't scoring big on 30 shots a night; he averaged 45.4% shooting, only twice reaching double-figures while shooting under 30%.
Afflalo shot 47% during his time in Denver, 45% in Orlando before that. He shot 42.4% as a youngster in Detroit, the worst stretch of his career. In Portland he shot just 41.4%.
Afflalo's end-of-season slide started seven games before he was traded. During a 99-69 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on January 29th, he shot just 3-of-5 for seven points. This was his lowest point output in almost two weeks. He shot 3-of-9 in the following game against Charlotte for just eight points, and would break the 40% mark just once over his final five games with the Nuggets.
Afflalo started slowly in Portland before a strong showing in March. He scored 14.2 points per game over a six-game stretch as he became a starter in the wake of Matthews' injury. From the end of that span, things went downhill. He scored in double-figures in 5 of his last 13 games before going down with an arm injury on April 9th. His shooting percentage over that time was a paltry 37%, including 12-of-38 (31.9%) from the three-point arc.
Afflalo was out for the first two games of Portland's playoff series against Memphis. He was virtually invisible when he returned for the final three games. He shot 16.7% from the field, scoring six points in Game 3 and not scoring at all in the final two games. In crunch time of Games 4 and 5, CJ McCollum played shooting guard in Afflalo's stead.
Though the switch in minutes was new, the trend was not. McCollum had been outpacing Afflalo, stats wise, since Afflalo's arrival in Portland. Over the same 13-game time frame that Afflalo was shooting a career-low, McCollum shot 55% from the field and averaged 15 points per game.
So far in Portland Afflalo is averaging career-lows in rebounds per game, assists per game, and steals per game. He's posting a career-high in fouls per game. His player efficiency rating is a disappointing 8.2, the equivalent of 419th in the league with Zoran Dragic, Austin Daye, and Damien Rudez for company.
Afflalo's GameScore rating tells a similar story. GameScore measures a player's general game-to-game performance, with 10 being average. Afflalo had two negative ratings over his final two months with Denver and four such ratings in Portland. His GameScore reached double-figures just seven times with the Blazers.
Afflalo finished the year with a 0.8 win share rating, one of the worst marks for a starter on a winning team in the NBA.
Excuses surround Afflalo's late-season play. "He did not have enough time to adjust", "He was being asked too much in replacing Wesley Matthews", "This was not supposed to be his role, he was supposed to be a bench player".
If a player cannot adjust over 25 games, how long does it take? While the injury to Matthews took the wind out of Portland's sails, Afflalo had similar numbers to Matthews while playing in Denver. Shooting much worse than Matthews from three, Afflalo averaged just 1.4 fewer points per game. He tallied virtually the same number of rebounds, assists and steals. Yet his numbers dropped off a cliff when he arrived in the Pacific Northwest.
Hindsight is 20/20. Acquiring Afflalo seemed like a smart move when the trade was made. Portland needed scoring punch off the bench; Afflalo looked like their guy. Nobody could have foreseen Wesley getting hurt, but nobody would have expected Afflalo turning into a happier version of Raymond Felton either.
If there is a takeaway from the Afflalo experiment, it is that nothing is a sure thing. CJ McCollum taking a huge step forward in his development proves the positive of the statement. So far, Afflalo has demonstrated the other end.