After voiding their agreement with Rashard Lewis, the Dallas Mavericks brought in Al-Farouq Aminu. Signing the 23-year old to a two-year, minimum deal, the Mavs are hoping his offense can catch up with his defense and give the team some needed help at the forward positions.
I ask New Orleans Pelican’s writer Michael Pellissier some questions about the new Maverick and what he can bring to the team.
Editor’s Note: Michael Pellissier is a recent MBA graduate of Millsaps College, which is located in Jackson, MS. He will be starting his professional career as a Data Analyst in New Orleans in just over a week. He writes for ESPN TrueHoop Network’s Bourbon Street Shots (@BourbonStShots), which covers the New Orleans Pelicans. You can find Michael on Twitter @MikePellissier.
Al-Farouq Aminu was brought in as a key piece in the Chris Paul trade. How have you seen him develop over the last couple of seasons, especially last season?
Aminu hasn’t developed as quickly as we hoped he would. He’s shown flashes of being a solid player, but these flashes have been followed by prolonged periods of invisibility. It has been an incredibly frustrating process because NO’s production at his position has been so poor the past few seasons. He was granted opportunity, but failed to consistently produce.
But there have been things to like. He’s a good defender and an excellent rebounder. He has also vastly improved upon what was one of the worst NBA jumpers I’ve ever seen. He runs the floor. He doesn’t complain about not getting the ball. He’s learning to play at a more controlled pace. I can see him being a useful role player on a team where he’s relied upon to do fewer things.
What will he bring to the court, which role do you see him best suited for, and do you see him having a big impact on the Mavericks?
Aminu’s most appealing skill is undoubtedly his rebounding, which is terrific for his position. Our frontcourt has struggled on the defensive boards the past few years, so our guards and small forwards were tasked with helping. Typically, our frontcourt players would body up and box out and our guards/small forwards would help collect. This system worked perfectly for Aminu, who would swoop in from unlikely places for boards. There were rebounds where he simply reached over an opposing player’s head from behind and grabbed the ball. I don’t know how much rebounding responsibility Carlisle will assign to Aminu, but I can assure you that he is capable of shouldering a sizable portion of the rebounding burden.
His defense is probably overrated by fans of other teams, although he has graded well in DRAPM for two consecutive seasons. He’s not a tenacious, in-your-face defender and is also not the lockdown defender he’s made out to be. And he’s not a gambler either. But he is unbelievably long (7-4 wingspan) and athletic and will generate some steals because of that. He’ll also come over from the weak side for the occasional block. He has the potential to be an excellent help defender once the game slows down for him. The question, of course, is when that will happen. Right now, he’s a good (but not great) defender.
Aminu is someone who I could see being a valuable bench contributor if used correctly, and I have faith that Carlisle can figure out a role for him. As a small forward, he probably has the most value if placed alongside a stretch 4 (like Dirk) who needs help on the boards. It’s hard to hide Aminu on offense and other teams will virtually ignore him for stretches to provide help on other players. Right now, a kick out to Aminu is essentially a reset of the offense. But playing next to the best stretch big in the game should alleviate some of those concerns, should he get time with Dirk. We’ve seen him play some as a small ball 4 and there could be some potential there. I really think he’ll be best alongside Dirk, but clearly Parsons is the guy at SF.
Which part(s) of his game need improvement, and at just 23-years old, do you see him being able to fix those weaknesses?
Awareness- Aminu’s overall awareness is not particularly good- he’ll lose guys on backdoor cuts, will miss rotations, etc. This is something that I expect him to improve upon with time, experience, and instruction. It probably didn’t help to be surrounded by defenders who were just as clueless as he was. New Orleans has embraced the youth movement at the cost of savvy veteran leadership. Luckily, AFA is blessed with an exceptional physical profile that allows him to cover serious ground at a moment’s notice. He can defend good players at his position.
There will be other occasions where his lack of awareness is present- he’ll telegraph a pass, struggle to find someone on an inbounds pass, etc.. he’ll make some mistakes that will leave you scratching your head.
Shooting- no matter how you slice it, Aminu’s lack of shooting ability hurts his team’s offense. He’s been a poor shooter his entire career, and his inability to hit 3s at a reasonable rate creates spacing issues. But there’s some hope: he actually developed into a respectable catch and shoot guy from midrange last season, and that was a huge improvement from where he was 3 years ago. If he could hit corner 3s at a quasi-respectable level, he’d be much less of a dead weight on offense.
Body Control- Aminu improved in this area, particularly over last season. For all of his athleticism, Aminu is still pretty poor at adjusting his body to finish around defenders. Throw away any thoughts of a twisting reverse layup. To his credit, he can grab just about anything in the air. But he’ll miss a bad (but reachable) bounce pass.
The Mavs have made drastic changes this offseason. Along with Aminu, they’ve brought on Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons, and Jameer Nelson to name a few. How do you see this team doing in the tough West?
I’m pretty high on the Mavericks this season. If Tyson can be anything like 12/13 Tyson, I think you could have a hell of a team- like top 4 or 5 in the West good. I’m not sure what kind of defender Marion was last year, but I’d imagine that losing his defense will hurt (if he goes somewhere else). But I like the Parsons fit, think Brandan Wright is still hugely underrated, and know firsthand how devastating Ellis/Dirk pick/pops are. And ultimately, I have a lot of faith that Carlisle will put together the pieces the right way. If you guys can catch some breaks, I could see y’all getting to the WCF.
I don’t mean to paint the picture that Aminu is a useless player- he is not. He’s a role player who is best served as a 7th or 8th man, and unfortunately, New Orleans’ lack of depth at SF cast him in a role he was incapable of filling. Once his speed of thought catches up with his footspeed, he has the potential to a very, very good defensive player. Find a way to hide his offensive woes and you have a useful piece on the bench.
Editor’s Note 2.0: Again, make sure to give Michael (@MikePellisier) a follow on Twitter.