For years, the Dallas Mavericks have been trying to find a key bench player to serve as the backup to Dirk Nowitzki. One player assumed to take on the task for the upcoming season was Rashard Lewis, a player who showed flashes of past success during the NBA Finals when he averaged 12 ppg during the final three games. However, after signing with the Mavericks July 19, the team had to void his contract after learning that the 34-year-old needs right knee surgery. As an immediate reaction, the Dallas Mavericks did something many thought impossible at this point in the offseason, they made an upgrade to Lewis with the signing of Al-Farouq Aminu.
Aminu is a player who has gone under the radar, which is not surprising as he was on the lowly-seeded New Orleans Pelicans last season. While he was on the Pelicans, Aminu carved a niche for himself. He was not a sparkplug off the bench that enabled a scoring surge. Instead, Aminu served as a reliable stretch defender who could guard the small forward and power forward positions. Additionally, he served as the third leading rebounder with an average of 6.2 rpg to go along with his 7.2 ppg and 1 spg.
By bringing Aminu in to replace the elder Lewis, Dallas received a different kind of backup for Nowitzki. Lewis, who is an excellent shooter as a big man, more or less would have been a lesser version of the German off the bench. His sole purpose would have been to be one of the more reliable backup shooters. Aminu, on the other hand, is a completely different kind of player. He will lock down the opposing team and use his length to crash the boards when Nowitzki and Chandler are taking a breather. Most importantly, Aminu will serve as the most flexible player off the bench, as he also can serve as a backup to the recently-acquired Chandler Parsons at his natural small forward position. In turn, Aminu has given coach Rick Carlisle more options in his rotations, and as such, it would not be surprising to see the former New Orleans forward log significant minutes this season.
What could serve as Aminu’s greatest asset though is his upside. Unlike the injury-plagued Lewis, Aminu is young at 23 years of age. More importantly, the forward has shown little signs of injury by missing only a small amount of games during his four-year career that started with the Los Angeles Clippers and carried over to three years with the Pelicans. Unlike other players this offseason with obscene, overpaid contracts, the Dallas Mavericks obtained Aminu with a steal of a contract at a veteran’s minimum worth two years, with the second year having a player option attached to it. As a result, Dallas will give Aminu a chance to show his capabilities on a team that, likely, will have more media coverage than New Orleans, which could lead to a heftier contract if he opts out prior to the 2015-2016 season. Meanwhile, he will help anchor a team that needs help on the defensive end, considering the Mavericks were 20th in points allowed last season as well as rebounding, where they positioned even worse at 26th in the league in total boards.
It appeared that Lewis was the Dirk Nowitzki backup that Dallas needed. However, within days of having waived Rashard Lewis’ contract, the Dallas Mavericks made an upgrade with combo-forward Al-Farouq Aminu, after what initially seemed like a misstep by the franchise. In turn, Aminu will join a team who appears to have had one of the best offseasons in the franchise’s history, where the Mavericks have a shot to ascend to the top of the Western Conference once again.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey