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Like a long lost love, it’s time for the Mavericks to reconnect with Al-Farouq Aminu

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How r u, Al?

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t long ago that fans of the Dallas Mavericks lamented each hoist from deep that Al-Farouq Aminu attempted. A lot has happened since then, though. Aminu, thanks in part to Rick Carlisle’s and Terry Stotts’ insistence, stuck with the deep ball. It paid off. In his four seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, he transformed into a credible three-point shooting threat. Now, Aminu is hitting the open market, where he will undoubtedly garner attention from numerous teams—the Mavericks included.

The Basics

If you watched Aminu when he played with Dallas in 2014-15, you know what you can expect from him, generally. At 6-foot-9, he’s a lengthy player who shows up on both sides of the ball and has a work ethic that coaches love. In the last four years, he’s developed a nice shooting touch from almost anywhere on the court. This season, Aminu posed a true shooting percentage of .568, the highest of his career. He’s a quintessential 3-and-D player.

Strengths

A quick glance at Aminu’s stats suggests that he’s improved across the board since leaving Dallas. However, he’s been playing around 10 minutes more per game with Portland. That has a great equalizing effect on his per 36 numbers, which look markedly similar to the ones he put up with the Mavs. That’s not a bad thing. He is a solid rebounder, moves the ball, gets blocks, and defends well. Nevertheless, his shooting really stands out now.

As mentioned, Aminu, 28, had a career year shooting the ball. Not only did he best his previous true shooting percentages, he also topped all prior effective field goal percentages, posting a .514. From the floor, he finished the season making 43.3 percent of his shots. It wasn’t the highest mark of his career, but it was certainly the highest with so many three-point attempts.

This season continued the trend of Aminu letting it fly. In terms of shots from deep, he took 280, only taking more in 2015-16 and 2017-18. While in Portland, he has made 35.3 percent of his three-point looks. He averaged just 28.6 percent for his career before that. What’s more, he posted the highest offensive rating, 118, of his career this season.

Becoming an outside threat certainly makes Aminu more valuable. Couple that fact with his long arms and ability to play and guard multiple positions and he becomes an ideal talent in the modern, positionless NBA. Oh, and what may make him even more desirable is that he doesn’t have a significant history of injury.

Weaknesses

If there is a downside to Aminu’s improved three-point shooting it is that he remains streaky. He will go several games beating up the nylon with shot after shot, turn around, and go equally as long only hitting one or two attempts— if any. If you’re a coach, though, you live with that because of the extra spacing that Aminu creates thanks to developing a reputation as an outside shooter.

If there is another point of concern, and there aren’t many, it’s that Aminu doesn’t crash the offensive glass much anymore. In Dallas, he averaged three offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. Now, his numbers hover around 1.6. Of course, this likely has more to do with Portland’s insistence on getting as many player back on defense as quick as possible to prevent transition opportunities. Dallas also does the same thing, rarely patrolling the offensive glass.

One deterrent to pursuing Aminu this summer has nothing to do with his game. It has everything to do with the salary cap. Aminu is coming off a four-year, $30 million deal with the Blazers. After a strong showing in Portland, it’s likely that he’s looking to cash in with at least a moderate raise. This could be the last big contract of his career, after all. How much he wants could ultimately decide how much or how little interest the Mavericks have in him.

Fit with the Mavericks

The Mavericks helped open up Aminu’s game for the modern NBA and turn him into the player that he’s blossomed into. You have to imagine that having him back in Dallas is something that’s under consideration, especially given the team’s need for shooters around Luka Doncic. Aminu isn’t going to like up the scoreboard like a Klay Thompson, but his all-around game would be very valuable to the Mavs.

If Doncic is going to be the primary ball-handler going forward—all indications point to this barring the team signing an elite point guard—then the Mavs need to put as many shooters on the floor with him as possible. The added benefit that Aminu brings to the table is his defense. It will allow Dallas to hide Doncic on a lesser offensive threat, giving the tougher assignments to Aminu or Dorian Finney-Smith, if the Mavericks retain his talent.

While the team has a penchant for small, ball-handling guards, it behooves them to bring in a player that can guard three different positions from shooting guards to power forwards. Aminu has trouble with some of the league’s bigger, bruising forwards, but he’s proven that he’s capable of holding his own. Offensively, putting him at the four with either Kristaps Porzingis or Dwight Powell at the five could present some interesting and advantageous offensive looks.

Al-Farouq Aminu moved on from the Mavericks relatively quick four summers ago. Portland offered him a contract that Dallas was unlikely to match or beat. Sometimes that’s how the league works. However, the Mavs should think long and hard about bringing him back. He’s not the superstar that the team so covets, but he is a valuable asset nonetheless.