With Shawn Marion perhaps bargaining for more than what the Mavericks are comfortable paying to a guy about to enter his age-36 season, Dallas signed Al-Farouq Aminu as his replacement on Thursday, a player 12 years younger and for just a bit more than the minimum. It was the second step the team took in order to get younger and more athletic on the wing, also replacing Vince Carter with Chandler Parsons. Considering his age, it is a bit odd Aminu didn’t draw more interest but I guess that’s what happens when you play your entire 7,000-minute career in teams just before and just after Chris Paul is there.
Aminu is yet to refine his offensive skill-set four years in the league, remaining solely a catch-and-score type around the rim at this point. He attempted 45.3% of his shots in the restricted area, finished them at a 66.1% clip and was assisted on over two thirds of his two-point field-goals. 135 of his 232 baskets (58.1%) happened via cuts, offensive rebounds and in transition, which accounted for 44.6% of his offense. Aminu has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and can play above the rim, with almost a fifth of his two-point makes coming on dunks as he can explode off the ground in a pinch, but struggled to finish through contact due to his thin 215-pound frame. His athleticism also translates on the glass, where he ranked ninth in offensive rebounding rate among position peers.
Aminu looked a bit more capable shooting the ball last season, displaying solid mechanics at times, keeping his off-hand pointed up and flicking his wrist properly when he got the chance to catch-and-shoot uncontested. But the production still wasn’t there. He hit just 32.1% of 140 attempts off spot-ups, which accounted for a quarter of his offense, and posted a 37.5% effective field percentage on 136 catch-and-shoot attempts. 62.5% of his three-point attempts were from the corner, yet he hit just a third of them. Aminu also posted just an average assist rate for his position and made fewer than half of tries on drives. As a result, New Orleans scored on average two points per 100 possessions more without him on the floor.
Dallas is the one of the few teams his inability to shoot (as of now) isn’t such a significant burden, as their success with Marion can attest. Marion had a resurgence from the outside last season (the magical effect of the contract year), hitting 35.8% of 162 three-point attempts, but that’s after hitting just 26.4% of 193 three-point attempts in the four years prior. Yet the Mavericks averaged fewer than 107 points per 100 possessions with Marion on the floor in just one of his five seasons in Dallas. That’s because Dirk Nowitzki’s excellence provides the opportunity for Rick Carlisle to play a non-shooter and maintain proper spacing. The idea is Aminu can be just plugged in on that same role.
Aside his productivity around the basket, the most intriguing aspect of his skill-set is his pick-and-roll defense on the ball. Aminu has great lateral quickness to navigate screens and recover in time to envelope smaller players on his seven-foot-three wingspan. He ranked in the top 10 in scoring allowed per possession defending pick-and-rolls two years ago and finished just outside the top-50 last season, as he is tremendous contesting shots due to his nine-foot standing reach. His impact was limited to that and crashing the glass, where he led the league in defensive rebounding rate among position peers, because Aminu isn’t as prolific defending in isolation. He can slide his feet and keep pace with anyone but doesn’t have the strength to contain dribble penetration from players his size through contact. Though long and quick, Aminu also was ineffective closing out of shooters, as opponents hit 39.8% on 118 three-point attempts off spot-ups, which accounted for a third of his defense. New Orleans allowed about the same scoring on a per-possession rate with or without him last season.
Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.