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Al-Farouq Aminu: the best minimum contract player in the NBA?

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Aminu is the latest in a long line of Dallas Mavericks' bargain bin reclamation projects.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavs made a bunch of acquisitions this offseason. Many were quite flashy, but my personal favorite so far has been fellow Wake Forest alum Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu has a similar story to any number of great Mavs bench players over the years: drafted highly (8th overall in 2010), didn't live up to the hype (traded after a season, has never averaged more than 7.3 points a game in a season), and signed with the Mavs for cheap (minimum contract) in order to prove himself in a bench role.

Farouq's stats are not particularly eye-popping. He is averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds a game so far, which makes for his worst season since his rookie year, statistically. However, he is also coming off the bench and playing roughly 10 minutes less a game than he has in past seasons. A look at his per-36 and per-100 numbers, it is clear that he has improved this year. He is posting career highs in offensive and defensive rating, as well as PER, true shooting percentage, and rebounding percentage.

According to basketball-reference.com, 365 players make more than the $1.1 million minimum contract Al-Farouq Aminu signed with the Mavericks this offseason. Aminu and 81 other NBA players are making the minimum this season.

I contend that he is the best of that bunch. Or at least the most valuable. The following is a short comparison of some of the best NBA players who are making the minimum this year.

Name PPG APG RPG FG% ORtg DRtg PER
Alexis Ajinca 4.8 0.3 3.6 66.7 115 107 13.8
Al-Farouq Aminu 5.3 0.5 4.3 46.2 107 101 14.1
Leandro Barbosa 7.2 1.7 1.5 48.6 102 99 13.1
JJ Barea 8.4. 4.4 1.7 46.6 124 107 22.7
Shannon Brown 5.0 0.8 0.3 41.2 108 111 9.2
Ed Davis 8.3 0.7 6.8 44.1 105 101 14.1
Glen Davis 3.3 0.2 1.2 60.0 96 110 7.6
Austin Daye 4.2 0.7 2.7 26.7 68 95 2.8
Drew Gooden 6.6 0.7 4.0 46.3 99 104 11.7
Shawn Marion 5.3 1.2 3.8 44.1 105 109 10.5

So Aminu probably isn't the best minimum-contract player, at least not based purely on statistics. That title belongs to Ed Davis, or maybe another Maverick, J.J. Barea. However, while other players making the minimum may have better stats than Aminu, none is quite the perfect fit for their team that he is. Stats don't necessarily paint a fully accurate picture of Aminu.

The Mavericks are one of the best offensive teams this year (and quite possibly also ever), but they are not so great on the other end of the floor. Tyson Chandler is a fantastic defender and rebounder, but he is only one man.

And this is why Aminu is so valuable. He and Tyson are probably the only plus defenders on the team and arguably its two best rebounders. While Tyson solely protects the paint, Farouq adds perimeter defense as well and can guard almost anyone on the court. What's more, his presence off the bench brings an energy Dallas desperately needs.

The interesting thing about Farouq is that while he is physically talented, he isn't a particularly skillful basketball player. He may be trying to develop his shot, but he's only a 27 percent 3-point shooter this season. He's a 58 percent free throw shooter. Fortunately, the Mavs have plenty of shooters, so that's not as much of an issue.

Aminu is my favorite new Mav because he is the X-factor, the missing piece. He just goes out there and fights, and more often than not, his teammates feed off of his energy. Aminu's presence improves the team's defensive rating by 6.5 points. And for all of his failings as a shooter, the Mavs actually have a slightly better offensive rating with Aminu on the court as well.

Aminu is not perfect, but he is a fantastic player for the minimum. And he is a ton of fun to watch.