The Kings Fill a Need with Arron Afflalo

Arron Afflalo stands next to Ben McLemore, the man he will probably replace as the starting shooting guard for the Kings.

The Kings were in need of guards during this free agency period, and they secured a commitment from former Knick Arron Afflalo on a 2-year, $25 million deal. Afflalo is coming off a down year with the Knicks, but the Kings have only guaranteed $1.5 million of the second year of his contract--an interesting provision that will allow them to keep their options open regarding his future. Afflalo is almost a prototypical 3-and-D guard, and his addition to the team will add needed 3-point shooting and perimeter defense.

Arron Afflalo's greatest NBA skill is his 3-point shooting. He has shot 38.5% from deep for his career and shot 38.2% last year for the Knicks. He is almost exclusively a spot-up shooter from behind the arc, as 77% of his 3-pointers were catch-and-shoot shots according to NBA.com's Player Shot Tracker. He works for a lot of his shots by running around screens, something he did more of in previous seasons than last year for the Knicks.

Afflalo is a very efficient mid-range shooter, but above all else is incredibly efficient at corner 3-point shots. His shot chart below shows his strong points on offense rather definitively:

 

Source: nbasavant.com.

Even though he shot quite well from deep last year, Afflalo was actually slightly below average at shooting three's outside of the corners. However, he more than made up for that by shooting a blistering 45.2% mark from the corners. Afflalo is also above-average at posting up for a guard, which helped with his efficiency on mid-range shots. Afflalo shot a fantastic 44.6% overall on mid-range shots, and particularly excelled at shooting inside the paint but outside of the restricted area. Since DeMarcus Cousins is an excellent passer that tends to create lots of open space, Afflalo should be very successful in Sacramento by spotting up in the corners and being judicious with his excellent mid-range game.

The biggest question about Arron Afflalo as he enters this season in Sacramento is his defense. Afflalo has been known as a great defender for most of his career, but those numbers slipped in a down year in New York. Last season, opponents shot 1.6% better against Afflalo than league average, a troubling number for a player known for staunch defense. However, he forced opponents into shooting 1% worse than league average in the year before that, which he split between Denver and Portland.

The most significant change in his defensive stats was his 3-point defense. After forcing opponents into shooting 3.7% worse from behind the arc in 2014-2015, Afflalo allowed his opposition to shoot 0.2% better than average on his 3-pointers last year. He seemed to occasionally lose focus on defense and would leave dangerous 3-point shooters open, often ball-watching and not paying attention to the player he was supposed to be guarding.

Afflalo was rumored to have been unhappy in New York, which may have led to laziness on the perimeter; his ball-watching habit got worse towards the end of the season after he lost his starting role to Sasha Vujacic. However, his defense from just one year prior seems to indicate that his defensive decline was not as much because of age as it was a lack of focus. He will likely be starting on Opening Day in Sacramento, and will be far more motivated to return to his old ways of strong perimeter defense--especially under a coach in Dave Joerger who will emphasize defense far more than George Karl or Kurt Rambis ever did.

Arron Afflalo is a starting-caliber shooting guard, something that the Kings lacked last season. His defensive lapses seem to be fixable based on prior data, and his spot-up shooting will be invaluable around DeMarcus Cousins. Despite many strange contract offers being handed out since the start of free agency, Arron Afflalo represents a value deal that the Kings can move on from relatively painlessly if last year proves to be a signal of decline rather than a statistical outlier. If Afflalo can return to his play from prior to his Knicks tenure, the Kings will have gotten a starting 2-guard on a good contract--a real value in this offseason's crazy free agent market.


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