Arron Afflalo's first season in Orlando Magic pinstripes ended sooner than he would have liked. A hamstring injury ruled him out for the final 12 games of Orlando's season. On Media Day, he made clear that he's ready to go.
"I feel great," Afflalo said. "I feel like I'm in the best running condition possible at this point for me." He later said that his hamstring is "fine" and that he focused on "strengthening my whole core" in order to avoid further injury. The hamstring helps to generate speed and agility, and those two facets contribute to making Afflalo an effective player.
Whereas the Magic's younger players might use the offseason to add new dimensions to their games, Afflalo, a six-year veteran, had an entirely different focus: efficiency. He said there's "no question" that he'll try to be a more efficient player in his second Orlando season.
"Me getting better this year doesn't necessarily have to mean I'm adding new things to my game or trying to expand my role," Afflalo said, "but just being more and more effective with the things I can do well.
"So that means knocking down the three at a higher level, [and] shooting a good percentage from the line but actually getting there a little bit more. Last year, I had my first experiences with having a lot of attention from defenses on the offensive end. So now it's about picking my spots, being effective, [and] not wasting too much energy."
Though he led the Magic in scoring before bowing out due to injury--Tobias Harris went on to take the team scoring title from him--Afflalo did have a down year from an efficiency standpoint. His 43.9 percent mark on field goals was his worst since shooting 43.7 percent in his second season, and his 30 percent mark on threes was his worst since he shot 20.8 percent from deep in scrap minutes as a rookie. Further, he averaged four shot attempts for every free throw he tried, a low rate for a high-minutes, high-usage player.
Magic fans and NBA observers who pay attention to advanced metrics will surely take note of Afflalo's comments, which demonstrate a keen understanding of the most efficient ways to score. Rediscovering his three-point stroke--he shot 41.9 percent on triples in his three seasons with the Denver Nuggets--and earning more free-throw attempts will go a long way toward making Afflalo a more potent offensive player.
Afflalo hopes that he has more freedom to operate with his back to the basket, and he wrote on his blog over the summer that post offense was one area in which he focused in his summer workouts. "I was pretty effective down there in the right moments," he said. "So if there are some stronger points in my game, I really wanna emphasize those and take advantage of those. Not only for myself but maybe create some opportunities for my teammates by the attention I get down there posting up smaller guards or guys my size."
Off the floor, Afflalo says he's "definitely enjoying" living in Orlando and being part of the Magic's rebuilding efforts. He also takes seriously his role as a veteran leader on squad laden with players still on their first NBA contracts: "I try to keep a bug in their ear a little bit, but most importantly, just be a great example for them, the way that I work, the way that I approach the game."
Afflalo values efficiency, hard work, and professionalism, which makes him a natural fit with the club Rob Hennigan has assembled. And if he makes good on his promise to pick his offensive spots more judiciously, he could help Orlando exceed expectations in 2013/14.