Chandler Parsons and his abs were the biggest signing of Dallas' offseason and arguably the biggest signing in the West. But according to Mark Cuban, the first call he made this summer was to former Pelicans small forward Al-Farouq Aminu.
Looking Back at Last Year
Last season was the 23 year-old Aminu's final year on his rookie contract, and at the end of the season he became an unrestricted free agent. Even though he showed plenty of promise on the floundering team, New Orleans (where he was traded after a spending his rookie year on the Clippers) showed little interest in keeping him on, so Dallas picked him up early in the offseason.
Over his four years in the NBA, Aminu has shown steady improvement and managed to stay healthy, and last year was no exception. He only missed two games last year, playing excellent defense and averaging more than 11 rebounds per 48 minutes.
Best Case Scenario
When Mark Cuban brought Aminu to Dallas on a two-year minimum contract, he was very clear about his intentions to use him for the skills he already has: defense and rebounding. Cuban doesn't plan on asking Aminu to become a primary playmaker but instead wants Carlisle to rely on his abilities on defense, one of the areas in which Dallas hopes to improve this season.
Adding Aminu along with Tyson Chandler should help them do just that, but in the best case scenario, Aminu remains an incredibly skilled defensive specialist and rebounder while improving his offense. His shooting efficiency has improved over his four years in the league, and he's also demonstrated better judgment about the shots he takes. He's also only 23, so it's likely that under the right circumstances he'll continue to improve.
Worst Case Scenario
There's almost no downside to a healthy 23 year-old defender on a minimum contract, but it's still worth contemplating what happens in a worst case scenario. Aminu has had two opportunities to show his skills as a Maverick in preseason games against Houston and OKC. Under the best of circumstances, preseason games are not great indicators of what to expect in the regular season, and these circumstances were certainly not ideal. Dallas dealt with several injuries in both of those games, leading Carlisle to start Aminu at small forward. In the game against Rockets, he was his usual self, with stellar defense and 11 rebounds, though the numbers he put up against the Thunder were less impressive.
Still, the standout number from both of these box scores was on offense. In the 20 minutes he's played in each preseason game, Aminu has taken three three-pointers, and he's made one of the six. For context, last season he took on average one three point shot per 48 minutes of play. Even in the regular season, projecting forward based on the last six shots a player took would be ludicrous. It's not troubling that Aminu missed the threes he took against Houston and OKC, but taking so many in so few minutes is somewhat worrisome.
Rick Carlisle understandably wants him to be able to do more on that end of the floor, but the worst case for Aminu is that some version of the recent preseason injuries persist, causing Carlisle to rely more heavily on him than he intended in a small line-up that has him carrying a greater offensive burden than he's capable of.
Will Mavs fans miss Shawn Marion?
On paper, swapping the aging Marion for the younger and very talented Aminu makes a lot of sense, and no matter how this season goes, is probably the right move in the long run. But if Aminu fails to improve his offense and is nevertheless asked to play a bigger role on offense due to injuries, it could make the loss of the Matrix tougher for fans to swallow.