DENVER (AP) — Just like that, Arron Afflalo’s in the thick of a playoff chase again.
Afflalo’s second stint in Denver came to an end Thursday, with the veteran guard going to the Portland Trail Blazers in a five-player deal. The Nuggets also included backup forward Alonzo Gee in the trade. General manager Tim Connelly said that in return, Denver received Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver, Will Barton and a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2016.
Afflalo certainly landed in a good place — a Portland squad out to a big lead in the Northwest Division.
“That’s great for him,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said before the team left for Milwaukee for their game Friday night.
With Afflalo, the Blazers acquired a shooter who can come in off the bench to spell starters Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
“He brings a lot of everything: He brings a toughness, a shot-making ability, he brings a defensive presence,” Matthews said. “And hopefully a hunger.”
Afflalo is averaging 14.5 points this season, but has struggled at times with his shooting touch. He’s hitting just under 43 percent from the floor, which would be his worst since his rookie season in 2007-08.
“Arron is a proven winner with playoff experience who will be easily integrated into our culture,” Blazers general manager Neil Olshey said. “He possesses a skill set that complements our style of play on both ends of the floor and will make an immediate impact as we continue our playoff push. Alonzo is an elite athlete and defender who adds a unique element to our perimeter.”
The 29-year-old Afflalo was reacquired by Denver from Orlando in a draft-night trade last June. Although his name has been mentioned leading to the trade deadline, Afflalo said it wasn’t bothering him.
“I’m enjoying being a Nugget,” Afflalo said Wednesday after practice. “I’ll always enjoy being a Nugget, despite the losses, despite whatever individual role I have. I’ll be fine.”
The Nuggets are shaking things up after a 20-33 start in Shaw’s second season in charge. They traded center Timofey Mozgov to Cleveland last month for two first-round picks.
Shortly after the Afflalo deal, the Nuggets sent often-injured center JaVale McGee, a protected 2015 first-round pick and the draft rights for Chukwudiebere Maduabum to the Philadelphia 76ers. In return, the Nuggets received the rights to Cenk Akyol, a 6-foot-6 guard from Turkey who plays in the Turkish Basketball League, along with financial relief from McGee’s salary.
“We’re changing things around because, obviously, we weren’t good enough the way we were,” Shaw explained.
Shaw didn’t have a chance to say farewell to Afflalo, but did talk to Gee and McGee before they left town.
“Arron was one of the few guys on the team we actually ran plays for,” Shaw said. “He was pretty quiet while he was here. Just a guy that came in and did his job every day.”
Barton was a second-round pick by the Blazers in the 2012 draft out of Memphis. The 6-foot-6 guard appeared in 30 games this season, averaging 3.0 points, 1.1 rebounds and 10 minutes.
Robinson, a fan favorite, played in 32 games for Portland this season, averaging 3.6 points and 4.2 rebounds. On Dec. 17 against Milwaukee, Robinson became the third player in team history with 15 or more points and rebounds in his first start. The other Trail Blazers to do that? Maurice Lucas and Bill Walton.
Known as “T-Rob,” the 6-foot-10 Robinson was the fifth overall pick out of Kansas in the 2012 draft by the Sacramento Kings. He also played at Houston before he was traded to the Trail Blazers in July 2013.
Claver is a little-used 6-foot-9 small forward from Spain. He has appeared in 12 games this season, averaging 2.4 points.
“When the other guys come, we’ll have to simplify things even more for a little while, to get them acclimated,” Shaw said. “But trades have been around since there have been contracts. It’s all part of what we do.”
AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.