DALLAS — Although he was less heralded than some of his fellow summer additions to the Dallas Mavericks, 6-foot-9 small forward Al-Farouq Aminu could still play a pivotal role for the team this upcoming season.
Entering the league as the eighth overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers, Aminu was quickly shipped after his rookie season in the deal that sent guard Eric Gordon and center Chris Kaman to New Orleans. Aminu then joined the Mavs during free agency this summer after playing 303 career games in his first four seasons, bringing with him averages of 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
Last season, Aminu started 65 of his 80 appearances for the Pelicans and averaged 7.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. The lanky perimeter defender also terrorized the Mavs in a game that seemed to garner the attention of team owner Mark Cuban, scoring 16 points and grabbing down 20 rebounds as New Orleans fell to a 100-97 home loss on Dec. 4.
Now, after he failed to fully tap into his potential during his stints with the Clippers and Pelicans, the Mavericks hope to unlock a side of Aminu’s game that has yet to be unleashed upon the league as they also try to fill the void left by the free-agent departure of veteran Shawn Marion.
“He’s been the last two years the best rebounding small forward in the NBA. It’s not even close,” Cuban said in regard to Aminu’s addition during a recent interview with 105.3 FM The Fan. “You know, it’s kind of like Shawn Marion. Not to compare the two, but sometimes just going to a new location takes you out of the perception that your former team had of you and puts you in a new position to succeed. And I think Al is just going to be a stud. He literally was one of the first calls I made during free agency, because we were hoping that we could get him as kind of a young stud defensively that we can put in. And we think in our system that he’ll be able to produce offensively much better.”
Born the son of two parents, Aboubakar and Anjiflic, that competed with the Nigerian National Team during the 2012 Summer Olympics, Aminu undoubtedly possesses the genes to be a star in the professional ranks. However, after garnering All-ACC Freshman Team honors back in ’09 at Wake Forest before leaving the colligate game behind following a sophomore season in which he averaged 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds, Aminu has struggled to find consistency in the pros.
Known for his perimeter defensive prowess, Aminu shot over 47 percent from the field each of the past two seasons in New Orleans. He will now try to improve his three-point shooting, figuring to see plenty of wide-open looks while joining a lineup that features 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, 2-guard Monta Ellis and fellow newcomer Chandler Parsons. Still, improving his perimeter shooting will take much work as Aminu comes to Dallas as a 29.2-percent shooter for his career from behind the arc.
“It’s a confidence thing, right? I mean, look, the grass is always greener on the other side, right? And anybody who’s leaving a team, particularly in a scenario like Al has had, it wasn’t because things were great. And so I think, you know, coming into a new situation, his confidence is going to be a lot higher. We’re going to work to build his confidence, because his shot looks good. It’s not like one of these guys where you look at it and go, ‘Oh, my goodness. That guy can’t shoot. Why is he doing that?’ His shoot looks good, and typically in that type of scenario it’s all about confidence. And so, if we can work on his confidence, we think he can be legit and not a 29-percent three-point shooter,” Cuban explained.
The Mavs have been in this position before, bringing in defensive specialist DeShawn Stevenson in a seven-player trade package that included the acquisitions of forward Caron Butler and center Brendan Haywood from Washington during the ’09-10 season. Stevenson would eventually thrive as a spot-up shooter for the Mavericks’ 2011 title team, knocking down 39.7 percent from three-point range during that postseason.
The Mavericks’ brass hopes Aminu can play a similar role this upcoming season, looking for the soon-to-be 24-year-old to emerge as an unsung hero.
“You know, it’s just like with DeShawn Stevenson. DeShawn’s shot was ugly, but we got his confidence up there and he turned into a 40-percent three-point shooter when he was with us. And we think [Aminu] can be similar in that he’s got a much prettier shot, he’s got better form and with just a little tweak in confidence I think he can be a good shooter,” Cuban said. “You know, the Kiki Vandeweghe rule is you give him one or two spots on the court where he can knock in an open shot and he can be an impact player.”