Denver Nuggets starting shooting guard Arron Afflalo is starting to make JR Smith look expendable. Afflalo, who is known for his defense-first style, has been on a tear during the preseason. Afflalo, who is turning 25 today, hasn’t just been the most consistent player for the Nuggets, he has been one of the Nuggets most dangerous players.
In three playoff games, he has scored 65 points (21.7 per game) - only to be outdone by Carmelo Anthony’s 73 (24.3). While Afflalo has been shooting more (14 a game), he also is making more too, hitting 23 of 42 jumpers (.509 percent) and even making 9 of 17 treys. He helped out on the boards against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, grabbing nine.
Afflalo wasn’t considered much more than a role player last season, and even before the season started last year he was overlooked by many outside the organization. However, Afflalo has made it apparent that is he is the Nuggets hardest worker and one of the most competitive players on the team. He jumped his scoring average up nearly four points last year and nearly doubled his minutes and rebounds. All the while being the Nuggets top perimeter defenders and guarding anybody from Kevin Durant to Chris Paul and spending much of the playoffs last year guarding Deron Williams.
But if Afflalo can keep up his work on offense without affecting his defense. He should be in line for much more than being the Most Improved.
Other notable players
- Gary Forbes has had an up and down preseason as he tries to make the Nuggets roster. After missing five of six shots in the preseason opener, Forbes rebounded to score 15 points and grab seven boards in a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. But he struggled Thursday night and missed all three of his shots.
- After a very good preseason opener, Shelden Williams has struggled in the previous two games as a starter. Against Minnesota he missed all three of his photos, but still grabbed eight rebounds (there was enough missed shots in the game that somebody had to get some rebounds). He struggled with his shot against the Clippers as well, missing six of seven shots.
- Nene has been his usual self, not great but not bad either. He has scored 10 and 13 points in the last two preseason games, respectfully. But he continues to struggle on the glass, grabbing 15 rebounds in 67 preseason minutes. He, however, had three steals against the Clippers.
- Anthony is finally getting respect from the officials. He shot eight free throws in the opener and had 16 and 19 in the previous two as well. He was also an assist short of averaging a triple-double too against the Clippers, with 23 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. It might have been Melo previewing his talent for Los Angeles.
- Ty Lawson may not be ready to start the for the Nuggets, in reserve duties he averaged 12 points and six assists in the first two games of the preseason. All the while making 9 of 16 shots. But as a starter on Thursday, Lawson made only 2 of 8 baskets, scored only nine points and dished out four assists.
- Anthony Carter was careless as ever, with five turnovers Thursday. But he did grab six rebounds. He wasn’t quite as bad against the Timberwolves, with only two turnovers.
- Well, not sure the more mature and supposedly more consistent Smith is better. In three preseason games, JR has made only 10 of 31 shots, including hitting five of 16 from behind the arc. The good news is against the Clippers, Smith only attempted one trey – which was a miss. But still, it might be a sign of a more mature JR. It probably was the first time he attempted more free throws then treys.
- Renaldo Balkman has proven he is who he is during the preseason. He isn’t the most potent scorer (17 points in three games and has only made 7 of 21 shots), but he is a very good rebounder (14 rebounds, including six offensive) and defender. Hopefully him and Karl have met halfway and we will see Kool on the floor more often in the regular season. He is an ideal starter while Kenyon Martin is out.
- So much for all the talk about Eric Boateng making the roster, Melvin Ely, the veteran, has played more minutes in the last two contests. Of course the results, 10 fouls, four turnovers, four rebounds and five points. So maybe Boateng still has a shot.
- Boateng didn’t play against the Clippers, but he has played like a rookie and still has a shot at making a roster.