Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl recently said in a radio interview on KKFN: "screw all the guys out there that think you gotta have a superstar to win a championship." It's a little lengthy, but it could be the Nuggets motto for the season and last night's re-signing of shooting guard Arron Afflalo completed an anti-superstar roster that should be able to make some noise in the Western Conference.
Afflalo's extension could pay him as much as $43 million through performance incentives. That's a nice payday for a player that was traded here from Detroit for a second-round pick (and let's have a moment of silence for the fallen reputation of Piston's GM Joe Dumars). Afflalo has improved his offensive game while in Denver, but thus far his value has been as a knock-down shooter and defensive pest.
He shot 43 percent from three-point range last year and his true shooting percentage, a stat created by ESPN's John Hollinger that takes three-pointers and free throws into account, is 62, eleventh best in the league.
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Afflalo is one of Karl's favorite players, likely because he is reliable, does very little to hurt the team and works hard. In other words, he's not J.R. Smith. ESPN reported that the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers attempted to acquire Afflalo in a sign-and-trade, but the Nuggets were not interested in whatever they were offering.
The Nuggets were able to offer a five-year extension, as they were also able to with Nene, while other teams hoping to sign the unrestricted free agent could only offer four years. Afflalo will start in the back court with Ty Lawson when the Nuggets start the season the day after Christmas at the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. The Nuggets play their first pre-season game tonight at the Pepsi Center against the Phoenix Suns.
Afflalo will be backed up by new-comer Rudy Fernandez, another shooter who can fill it up from outside. The extension assumes continued growth for Afflalo. An annual salary of $8 million is generous for a shooting and defensive specialist. But the Nuggets are hoping he continues to evolve his all-around offensive game and perhaps grabs a few more rebounds.
If he does that, Afflalo could be underpaid again in a few years.