Achievements often go unrecognized when accomplished among mediocrity.
As the franchise player for a team that has won a combined 31 games over the past two seasons, Arron Afflalo has been one of the few bright spots for Orlando, a team once again headed to the NBA Draft lottery.
Only Milwaukee has fewer victories than the Magic, a fact emphasized by the final tally of fan votes for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.
The ballots completely ignored the 20.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 42.3 percent shooting from 3-point range Afflalo has posted this year, as he failed to garner 125,000 votes.
Ten backcourt players in the Eastern Conference totaled more votes than Afflalo, including Derrick Rose, the Bulls point guard that is out for the year after undergoing knee surgery and Ray Allen, a backup guard in Miami averaging just 9.5 points on a career-low 34 percent shooting from 3-point range.
Both players have more star power than Afflalo, Chicago and the Heat play in bigger markets and have sustained success as a team.
The only chance for Afflalo to earn his first All-Star selection is to rely on the coaches to select him as a reserve and he has the support of his team, at least to a certain extent.
“My kids won’t be making posters,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I’ll talk to other coaches and emphasize how good Arron has been. I believe in the knowledge of the coaches, they understand the league and who is playing well.”
The 20.2 points per game Afflalo is averaging not only ranks as the third most among all shooting guards in the NBA, trailing only Houston’s James Harden and DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors, but marks the seventh consecutive season he has been able to improve his scoring average.
Former Mavericks guard Derek Harper is the only player in league history to improve his scoring average for a longer period of time, eight consecutive seasons.
Much like Afflalo, Harper’s accomplishments went unnoticed as his teams in Dallas struggled to win games.
The Western Conference coaches ignored the 19.7 points, 7.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game Harper averaged during the 1990-91 season because he played for a team that went on to win just 28 games that season.
While those outside of the organization marginalized his accomplishments, Harper is finally getting his due as the Mavericks have announced plans to retire his No. 12 jersey later this season.
Afflalo likely won’t have to wait 15 years after playing his final game to garner some recognition.
The All-Star reserves will be announced on Jan. 30 and he seems to have the support from coaches throughout the league.
“You can certainly make a case for him, the way he scores the ball in so many different ways,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think that the fact he plays both sides of the ball, he’s a terrific defender as well. Each year he has gotten better and better. He’s certainly deserving of consideration.”
Few players score with the same efficiency as Afflalo. His true shooting percentage, a metric that is a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws, is 58.7 percent this season.
Of the qualified players averaging 20 or more points per game, only five players have a higher average than Afflalo.
“He certainly presents challenges, especially the way he is playing,” Golden State coach Mark Jackson said. “You don’t stop him with one guy. You are going to have to pay attention to him like he’s a No. 1 guy, which he is playing like.”
Last season, Afflalo came to the Magic as the centerpiece in return for center Dwight Howard, a six-time All-Star during his tenure in Orlando.
Vaughn emphasized he needed to play with consistency for a rebuilding team.
The Magic has the fifth youngest roster in the NBA this season and the play of Afflalo, with just two games with fewer than 10 points this season, has become the primary focus when defending the team.
“Afflalo is obviously having a heck of a year. We’ve done everything to try and slow him down, but haven’t had much success.” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s been one of the best two guards in the East and he is deserving to be in that discussion. I think his numbers alone speak for themselves.”
The 27th overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft has to wait another week to see if his play earned him a roster slot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team and Orlando is just hoping its struggles this season don’t have an influence on the final decision.
“Our record doesn’t reflect how well he has played,” Vaughn said. “But I think overall, his efficiency shows that he is trying to do the right thing every single night.”