Over the past few seasons Arron Afflalo has been a very decent Fantasy Basketball option but he was hardly "irreplaceable". In 2014-2015 he wasn't. Can he have a bounce back season in 2015-2016?
Let's begin with the Rotowire Fantasy Basketball assessment of Afflalo for 2011-2012
Afflalo's career path took a dramatic upswing when he was traded from the Pistons to the Nuggets prior to the 2009-10 season. He's a restricted free agent, meaning there's the possibility he could be playing somewhere other than Denver, but that's unlikely to happen unless someone signs him to a ridiculously bloated contract at which the Nuggets would be forced to balk. With that understanding, it's expected he'll once again be the Nuggets' starting shooting guard this season. Through 69 games played last season, Afflalo averaged 12.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 three-pointers, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.0 turnovers in 34 minutes. He doesn't make mistakes, plays good defense and is efficient on offense, making him a coach's dream. But he also doesn't do anything that makes him irreplaceable, which is why he serves in a specified role for the Nuggets. He spots up to shoot any open threes that are available and attacks the rim when a defender over pursues him at the three-point line. Beyond that, he's limited offensively. There isn't much room for him to grow unless the Nuggets create more plays to open up threes for him.
The one thing that stood out as I was reading this assessment/projection was the word irreplaceable and how Afflalo just isn't. His final 2012 per 36 minute numbers of 15.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 triples a night and really good 47 percent field goal and 39 percent from beyond the arc were solid fantasy basketball numbers but nothing spectacular. He also didn't give much in steals and blocks (less than 1 per night in both categories) and I know when Rotowire used the term "irreplaceable" it meant real basketball but in 2012 Afflalo was good but he certainly wasn't "irreplaceable" in fantasy basketball either.
Let's flash forward to 2012-2013 Fantasy Basketball pre-season assessment of Afflalo.
Afflalo will be the starting shooting guard for the Magic this season after he was one of the principal pieces acquired in the blockbuster Dwight Howard trade. After playing with the high-octane Nuggets last season, Afflalo joins a new-look Magic team that figures to play at a much slower pace and with an inferior collection of talent. Afflalo's supporting cast may be weaker, but from an individual standpoint, he figures to play a more integral role with his new team and could very well be the team's top scorer. The 26-year-old proved hungry even after inking a five-year, $43 million deal with the Nuggets last offseason, improving his points per game by 2.6 and tying his career-bests in steals and assists per game. A consequence of his increased shot attempts was a drop in his shooting percentage, particularly from three-point range, where he dropped nearly three percentage points to 39.8 percent. Even with the regression, 40 percent from three-point range is nothing to scoff at, nor are Afflalo's 1.4 threes per game. As perhaps the best player on a likely lottery-bound Magic team, Afflalo should see a bump in his minutes and improve upon his scoring and rebounding totals accordingly.
So how did Afflalo fare? His numbers per 36 minutes generally remained the same; there wasn't and points explosion due to increased minutes but Afflalo's assist totals increased by 1 more assist per game. The guy was beginning to give up the rock a bit more and along with his 16 points, 3.7 rebounds and 43 percent shooting he was decent. The one troubling stat from 2013; Afflalo shot only 30 percent from beyond the arc with just 1 triple a night. That low of a three point shooting percentage from someone who you rely on to shoot threes will kill your fantasy basketball season. Afflalo wasn't replaceable in 2013 either.
This was the pre-season assessment for Afflalo prior to the 2014-2015 season.
Afflalo is returning to Denver, where he spent 2009-12 before signing with the Magic as a free agent. The Nuggets acquired the UCLA product in a June trade that sent Evan Fournier and the 56th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft to the Magic. While Orlando struggled mightily as a team last season, Afflalo enjoyed the best individual season of his career, averaging 18.2 points to go with 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. He shot 46 percent from the field and an impressive 43 percent from three, a major improvement over his 30-percent mark in 2012-13. As he enters his age-29 season, Afflalo figures to be one of the more productive players at the league's shallowest position. He won't be asked to do as much offensively, which will likely lead to a slight decline in production, but it's difficult to imagine a significant regression. The question is whether the combination of Randy Foye (last year's starter at shooting guard) and rookie Gary Harris will cut into Afflalo's playing time.
One thing about Afflalo; the Dude gets traded a LOT. He did have the best season of his career in 2014 but the 2015 season was a huge disappointment for fantasy owners and probably for owners of both the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers. A significant regression may not have been imaginable that's exactly what happened and the promise Afflalo showed in 2014 all but disintegrated in 2015. He went from a 100 percent "must have" to a guy who hoisted up nearly five triples a night for 35 percent, four less points per 36 minutes and nearly 2 assists less per 36 minutes is probably a good reason why Afflalo went from a later round draft pick in 10 team leagues to a player owned in roughly 75 percent of all Major Fantasy Basketball leagues.
2015-2016 Fantasy Basketball Projection
We've seen promise fulfilled and blown expectations over Aaron Afflalo's career. He's only 29 years old so there are a few good seasons left in his tank I think.
The first question we must consider is where's he going to wind up playing basketball next season? He does have an option to leave the Trail Blazers and become an unrestricted free agent. From a fantasy basketball standpoint this would be the best thing that could happen. Hopefully his new team would give him 30-35 minutes per night, let him shoot three to five triples and if that happens he could possibly return to the type of production we witnessed in the 2013-2014 season.
The second question is what if Afflalo opts in and remains with the Trail Blazers? It could happen and if it does how much playing time will he get? In 25 games last season Afflalo averaged 10 points, 1 triple with 42 percent shooting from the floor and 40 from behind the arc in roughly 30 minutes a game. Those numbers aren't exactly encouraging enough to draft Afflalo in a standard 10 team league are they?
[Editor's Note: Afflalo is reportedly opting out of his contract. This developed between the writing and publishing of this article.]
Afflalo ranked 57th among shooting guards and didn't even crack the top 100 forwards (Afflalo has small forward eligibility) in the 2014-2015 season ending fantasy basketball rankings. In terms of overall fantasy basketball efficiency Afflalo finished the season ranked 32nd amongst shooting guards and went unranked as a small forward.
So where does that leave us? I don't think it's going to matter much at draft time who Afflalo is playing for he shouldn't get drafted in a ten team standard league. His 2015 numbers were awful. Some could blame the trades but he should be used to getting traded so I'm not buying that. In the past Afflalo also had to adjust to new systems and he did quite well. Last season he wasn't good in either situation he found himself in. That's not a good thing. In a league of 12 teams or more he could be a late round option to take a flyer on but if you look hard enough you'll probably be able to find someone better and until he becomes "irreplaceable" you might be better off.
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