The Orlando Magic asked too much of Arron Afflalo in his first season in pinstripes. The UCLA product had carved a nice career for himself as a three-point shooting complementary player on Denver Nuggets teams featuring Carmelo Anthony, Ty Lawson, and J.R. Smith, among other perimeter scorers, but he had to assume much more offensive responsibility in Orlando. That meant creating for himself and for teammates off the dribble with greater frequency, and his efficiency suffered as a result.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn explained Afflalo's uneven 2012/13 campaign on Saturday.
"Last year, we asked him to do a lot of different things [offensively]," Vaughn said. "Part of that was for me to understand my group. That's the comfort level, where I think guys can be good with the basketball and what can they do. That's part of my understanding.
"I think I understand Arron better now. He understands his game and what makes it efficient for us as a team."
In the first three games of his second Magic season--one in which he's averaging 22.3 points per game on 59.7 percent True Shooting--Afflalo has indeed found ways to become more efficient. For this improvement we must credit Vaughn for learning from his first season as Orlando's coach and Afflalo for working hard over the summer.
Of particular note for the Magic: the offseason addition of Victor Oladipo via the Draft appears to also be a factor in Afflalo's improved performance. As the table embedded in this post suggests, playing alongside the dynamic guard benefits Afflalo.
Even when Afflalo's shooting percentages normalize, there's reason to believe that he'll continue to play more effectively with Oladipo on the floor, as the Indiana product puts pressure on opposing defenses with his aggressiveness and ability to get into the lane with dribble penetration.
"When you have an aggressive player like that who commands some attention inside the paint, and has the ability of vision to kick out for open shots, it makes the game a lot easier on myself," Afflalo said.
When asked for insight as to why that pairing works, Vaughn said, "Arron's ability to be efficient offensively and Victor's ability to attack for us [make] a good combination.".
Afflalo said Saturday that there's "no question" that he plays more efficiently when he's off the ball.
"It's no mystery in this game that an open shot will go in more often than a contested, created shot," he said. "There are moments where creativty in the post maybe works well for me, but for the most part, being able to have my feet set and hitting good shots is kinda the shot I want."
Vaughn said he would continue to monitor the pairing's plus-minus numbers--just the two together as well as the duo as part of larger units--to see what he can learn. In the interim, the team is content to profit from Afflalo's more potent offensive game, regardless of the impetus for it.