Here's an idea. It might sound crazy, but the reasoning for this idea has some validity.
What if Al-Farouq Aminu was used to close games? What if he was on the floor, with five minutes left?
It's a weird lineup, but it's not absurd. The Mavericks have done it twice in the past two weeks. Of course Aminu won't suddenly start closing out every game, but on some nights, against some opponents, he's a better option than Dirk Nowitzki or perhaps even Chandler Parsons.
Before everyone grabs their torches and pitchforks, this isn't a dig at Dirk whatsoever. In fact, this is more of a way to counter the evildoing of Father Time. Age has hit Dirk a little harder than usualy this season. The numbers say so (17.3 points per game on 45 percent shooting) and his slowing lateral movement also is evidence to this.
And in regards to Parsons, look no further than Wednesday night. Parsons has been on such an offensive tear the last few games, that it was odd for him to struggle against the Orlando Magic. With 5:26 to go, Rick Carlisle made the move to sub Aminu for Parsons. Although the 107-102 win doesn't look spectacular, knowing the Mavs were up 22 at one point, Aminu did make some key defensive plays and grabbed big-time rebounds down the stretch.
So why not have the most athletic player on the roster come in during crunch time and see what he can do? It's proven that it can work, so why not see if he can be relied upon to do that against better competition?
Let's also be clear on something here. If Aminu is going to close games at the four, he's not going to be asked to carry the Dallas Mavericks offensively. That would be franchise suicide, unless Aminu begins to develop a consistent jump shot over the next few years.
This isn't to say this should be a permanent thing every game. There are going to be nights where it just doesn't work, and that's understandable. But there are going to be times where the Mavs are in a defensive struggle and will need everyone they can get who knows how to play defense.
It is something that needs to be experimented with, however. It doesn't hurt to see what works.
Despite his off night Wednesday, Parsons has the hot hand right now. Austin Ngaruiya wrote a great, detailed piece on why Parsons should be the primary offensive weapon going forward. I also discussed in our roundtable on Sunday that it's time for him to carry this franchise and see what he can do. The responsibilities of being the Mavericks' closer are no longer on Dirk's shoulders, and shouldn't be. He's done enough and needs to rest up for the playoffs.
If there's a close game, and Dallas is need of some stops, there's no reason to believe Aminu shouldn't be on the floor, closing games, over Dirk or even Parsons
And if there are times like the Magic game, where Parsons is getting beat off the dribble by the likes of Moe Harkless, going to Aminu isn't a bad idea because of his defensive versatility and ability to play multiple positions. That's why he was brought to Dallas, after all.
Which brings us back to March 8, the 100-93 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The score should not have been that close. Nor should the Lakers have even been up by two points heading into the fourth quarter. But Los Angeles took a 90-84 lead after a Carlos Boozer layup with 6:35 to go. Dallas had a lineup of Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, Parsons, Aminu and Tyson Chandler on the floor.
Dallas went on an 11-0 run over the next 3:54 with that very lineup on the floor, and the Mavericks eventually won 100-93.
We learned awhile ago that Aminu's name means "The Chief." We at MMB modified that name to "The Chef" because it sounds awesome, and chefs add a lot of things to the pot. In that nearly four-minute stretch, Aminu had six points, two blocks and two steals. Aminu was subbed out with 2:28 to go, and by that point, the damage had been done.
In the final 6:35 of the fourth quarter of that game, the Lakers made only one shot. It was a Wayne Ellington layup with no time left. That means the Lakers were held to one point in the final 6:34.
That was all because of Aminu's infectious energy and defense.
We can't overshadow the reality of the situation: These were the Lakers, after all. But they were the Lakers that somehow couldn't miss a shot through 42 minutes. It was set to be the most disappointing loss of the season for the Mavericks, but it turned out to be the most disappointing win, if there was such a thing.
The loss of Aminu was felt two days later against the Cleveland Cavaliers, when the Mavs got run out of their own building by 33 points. Aminu sprained his left shoulder in the first quarter of Dallas' loss to Cleveland on March 10. The Mavericks had a 31-26 lead at the end of the quarter before LeBron James and Kyrie Irving decided to go nuts. Aminu entered the game with Dallas down 16-10 with 7:23 left in the first half. By the time he left the game, Dallas was up 27-25.
Fortunately for the Mavericks, they picked up two much-needed wins without Aminu due to his sprained shoulder. And in the midst of that, Dallas is back in the thick of things in the Western Conference with Aminu now back in the lineup, with great chances to not only climb up the rankings, but still have a chance to win the Southwest Division.
And with the way Dallas' offense has been on fire lately, getting Aminu back is going to help because these defensive numbers are absurd.
NBA.com says that Aminu is guarding players that are shooting 59 percent from the floor from six feet or less, and he's holding them to 49 percent. From 10 feet or less, Aminu is holding shooters to 44 percent, when the average of the player he's defending is shooting 54 percent. When he's on the floor, Aminu is a difference maker defensively. Getting him on the floor together with Rondo and Chandler creates a wall of defense for Dallas it hasn't had in ages.
There are going to be a stretch of games coming up for the Mavericks — most notably against the Phoenix Suns and a home-and-home against the San Antonio Spurs. Those games could be close with a few minutes to go.
It doesn't hurt to try something different. With Parsons back and healthy, Dallas' offense can do just enough to win games, but Aminu's defensive presence gives the Mavericks an edge to win down the stretch.
That's what will matter most come playoff time.