As the NBA’s free agency period dragged into late July it became increasingly evident that Shawn Marion, the Dallas Mavericks’ starting small forward for the last five seasons, would not be returning to Dallas.
The Mavericks’ first strike in free agency was Houston Rockets small forward Chandler Parsons. Parsons’ addition instantly upgrades the Mavericks starting lineup. Head coach Rick Carlisle now has three legitimate scoring options in Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis and Parsons.
The offensive lineup that Carlisle can now employ should make the Mavericks one of the most efficient offensive teams in the league. While this is exciting news for Dallas, the issue of replacing Shawn Marion’s defensive proficiency loomed large.
The Mavericks routinely used Marion to contain their opponent’s top shooting guards and small forwards as Carlisle saw fit. Marion’s defensive versatility masked a number of issues Dallas had when it came to containing the defensive perimeter. While his presence will be surely be missed, the Mavericks did take steps to ensure they would improve defensively.
The Mavericks traded Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, Samuel Dalembert, along with two second-round picks to the New York Knicks for Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton on Jun. 25. Chandler should drastically improve the effectiveness with which the Mavericks protect the basket.
Chandler’s ability to protect the basket can’t be overstated, he won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year during the 2011-12 season and his contributions the previous season in Dallas have not been forgotten.
As good as Chandler is on the defensive end of the court, Dallas cannot expect to him cover for multiple positions without getting in early foul trouble. Finding a player with the ability to effectively defend opposing shooting guards and small forwards remained a priority in Dallas.
The Mavericks were still looking on the offensive end of the court when they signed veteran small forward Rashard Lewis to a one-year deal in the offseason. The contract was eventually voided after it was revealed that Lewis would require surgery on his right knee.
The remaining free agent small forwards that would be a fit in Dallas were few in number. The one free agent that stood out as a fit was Al-Farouq Aminu.
Aminu was the No. 8 overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2008 NBA draft. Aminu (23) has spent the last three seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans, playing an average of 25 minutes per game. While he is limited offensively, Aminu and his athletic, 6’9” frame were exactly what Dallas was looking for.
The Mavericks quickly moved on from Rashard Lewis and signed Aminu to a two-year contract for $2.1 million. The contract includes an opt-out clause for Aminu after the first year.
Aminu may not have landed the contract he desired when free agency began, but he has a great opportunity in front of him with a Dallas team that has high expectations in the upcoming 2014-15 season.
Head coach Rick Carlisle will be counting on Aminu’s defensive versatility in Shawn Marion’s absence. Aminu could be asked to defend the likes of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard in the course of the upcoming season.
Aminu’s versatility should allow Carlisle to deploy him against opposing small forwards and stretch power forwards as the game dictates.
His defense prowess is what brought Aminu to Dallas, but he will need to become more than a defensive stopper to earn significant minutes with this Mavericks team. Aminu has averaged 7.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on 47.4 percent shooting the last three seasons in New Orleans.
Aminu may lack range on the offensive end of the court, but he is aware of his limitations and he is selective with his shot. The Mavericks won’t frequently ask Aminu to stretch the court, since they have a bevy of offensive players who posses that ability.
Aminu has displayed the ability to score inside the paint, what Dallas wants to see from Aminu is a more consistent shot a little further away from the basket. Rick Carlisle and his coaching staff will undoubtedly be working with Aminu in hopes he can improve his shooting from outside the paint.
Last season Aminu connected on 56 percent of his shots taken within eight feet of the basket, but he connected on only 33 percent of his shots from beyond that range. This is the area in which the Mavericks will be working to improve Aminu’s developing offensive game.
The Mavericks have no illusions that Aminu will transform himself into Kevin Love during the offseason, but if he can slightly expand his scoring range he could find himself playing a significant role in Dallas.