Neil Olshey and the Portland Trail Blazers aren’t wasting a second this off-season, appearing to have made the first big signing of the 2015 NBA Free Agency period only 35 minutes in by agreeing with Al-Farouq Aminu over a contract that will pay him $30 million over the next 4 years!
Though free agents cannot be officially signed until July 9th, it’s normal for players and teams to find agreement before then, just as Olshey and Aminu, who are no strangers to each other, have done tonight. This signing is a reunion of sorts as Olshey, during his tenure as GM of the Los Angeles Clippers, made the choice to draft the 6’9″ Wake Forest alum 8th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft.
Al-Farouq Aminu, who’s first name translates to “the chief has arrived,” is a literal prince, descended from a line of Nigerian kings. But now that we’ve gotten his royalty status out of the way, let’s move on to basketball. Aminu is widely known as one of the most versatile defenders in the Association, aided by his impressive 7’2″ wingspan. He can guard all 5 positions, lock-down a shooter with more constancy than Nicolas Batum ever could, and grab rebounds like a true glass-eater (8.6 rebounds per 36 minutes for his career) from the SF position. So what’s the problem with Aminu? He is a monster on defense, an athletic small forward who can guard a PG while boxing out a center for the offensive rebound. Let me give you a clue, and I said the word in that last sentence; offensive.
It’s no secret that Al-Farouq needs a little refining, to say the least, on the offensive end of court. The good news about his offensive game? He knows that he needs to improve on offense, and rarely takes questionable shots, dishing the ball to a more suitable shooter. Also, his stats greatly improved during the Dallas Mavericks’s post-season run when Chandler Parsons succumbed to a knee injury, putting up what would be career high averages; 11.2 points (.548 FG%, .636 3P%) and 7.2 rebounds per game. Also, don’t pass up on the fact that this 24-year-old can throw it down with the best of ’em, and on Houston Rocket players too!
All-in-all, we are signing Al-Farouq Aminu on the basis that he will be able to replace, and maybe even improve on, the defensive vacancy opened up by Batum’s departure. If his offensive game can develop, with glimpses of greatness in last year’s playoffs, we may have just made one of the best signings in recent Blazers history. This offensive improvement is one that I, and probably Olshey, expect too, as Aminu is only 24-years-old and, thankfully, is consciously aware that he needs to improve his play on that end of the court to become a dependable 2-way player. In the event that his offensive game doesn’t improve, which I actually find very unlikely, then we’ll get exactly what we gave Al-Farouq Aminu a 4-year, $7.5 million a year contract for; to be an athletic, premier defender who is as versatile as they come.