One-on-one with Al-Farouq Aminu

Mavs.com's Lonnie Franklin III chats with Al-Farouq Aminu after his monster performance against the Rockets Friday night.

In what’s becoming almost a nightly ritual, Al-Farouq Aminu’s fingerprints were all over the Mavs’ win against Houston last night.

The forward scored a season-high 17 points, grabbed a season-high 12 boards, and blocked two shots in 30 minutes of action, boasting a plus-minus of +12 in an 11-point win. And, as only Aminu can, he defended virtually every position throughout the game, from the NBA’s leading scorer James Harden to big men Terrence Jones and Josh Smith.

“I definitely think what Farouq did was major,” center Tyson Chandler said. “His activity, not only the defensive end and offensive end. Rebound. It just seemed like he came up with play after play.”

“I mean defensively, he’s almost like (Shawn Marion),” Dirk Nowitzki said. “He can guard one through five, really. He’s probably guarded every position so far. He’s long, he’s quick enough, he’s got unbelievable timing on his shot blocking, he’s a great rebounder for his size with his long arms. Just his activity is there.”

Aminu’s activity certainly helped to change the feel of the game against the Rockets, which is a trait every bench player hopes to achieve. After getting off to a sluggish start out of the gate, trailing 8-0 and then 11-4, the Mavs brought in the second unit. Within three minutes, Aminu had already collected two offensive rebounds, one of which led to a Richard Jefferson three-point that tied the game at 16. He also hit a three-pointer and shot 5-of-7 on two-pointers.

As the season has worn on, Aminu has played with more confidence and more energy. After a big run he’ll often be the one to let out the yell and roars or bump chests with teammates. That type of thing can be contagious and can certainly help the team.

“We’re playing good and I’m just feeding off their energy,” Aminu said of his teammates. “And they’re feeding off my energy. Just trying to keep this thing going.”

In his last 11 appearances, Aminu is scoring 8.5 points to go along with 7.0 rebounds (including three on the offensive glass), 1.7 steals, and 1.5 blocks. During that time, he’s hit threes at a 34.6 percent clip, a huge improvement for him over his performance earlier in the season.

“He gives us a presence on the boards. You can see his shooting gets better every game and he takes the challenge defensively,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He can guard a lot of different positions. He’s playing five now some. He’s having a lot of things to process, but he’s doing a terrific job … We really needed Farouq to have a huge game and he did.”

The most obvious of impacts he’s made has come on the defensive end, particularly in the pick-and-roll defense. This season he’s in the 89th percentile in the league in terms of points per possession allowed (0.622) when defending the pick-and-roll ball-handler, holding them to just 33.3 percent shooting. As the bigger defender in the pick-and-roll (if he switches off his man to take the guard, which is something the Mavs frequently do with him) he’s holding them to 40 percent shooting and he ranks in the 83rd percentile in the league in PPP (0.632). He also ranks in the 80th percentile in isolation defense. Basically, if you’re a player who wants to put the ball on the floor and try to make a move, you’re not going to beat him.

He’s also good close to the basket, too. This season he’s held opponents to just 14-of-38 shooting around the rim, good for 36.8 percent shooting and the 92nd percentile of defenders in the NBA. He blocks 4.0 percent of all opponents’ two-point shots when he’s on the floor, which is the highest mark on the Mavericks of any player with more than two appearances for the team this season. His length and anticipation skills helped him as he swatted Harden in the third quarter.

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Now check out NBA’s player tracking technology to see just how much ground Aminu covered, and how he saw that block developing the entire possession.

He showed center-like instincts by measuring Harden’s drive the entire way, then stepping in at the last possible second to block the shot and kickstart a fast break the other way.

It’s that versatility and effectiveness guarding multiple positions which has turned Aminu into a truly invaluable player on this team. At one point, the Mavs rolled out a lineup which included Rajon Rondo, Tyson Chandler, and Aminu. Those three players are all long-armed, quick, and plus defenders. When the Mavs surround that trio with offensive attackers like Nowitzki or Monta Ellis, suddenly Dallas is a very dangerous two-way team.

His impactful play also likely means more wins for Dallas, which is always a good thing, especially against a rival like the Rockets.

“It’s good to get a win,” Aminu said. “Especially against Houston, which we don’t really care for too much. But it was a good win. We needed it.”

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