That’s the kind of potential the Mavs see in the 24-year-old Aminu on that end of the floor.
“I think he can do a lot of those same things,” Chandler said. “He’s an incredible athlete.”
Aminu, a former eighth overall pick who signed with the Mavs for the veteran’s minimum this summer, unquestionably has all the physical attributes to excel as a defender in the NBA. He’s an agile, athletic 6-foot-9, 215-pounder with a pterodactyl-like wingspan of 7-foot-3.
The Mavs envision Aminu as a Matrix-esque defender who has the versatility to defend four positions, primarily guarding the two forwards, much like Shawn Marion did the last four years. Aminu has embraced that challenge, taking Chandler’s advice about studying Pippen and also watching a lot of tape of former San Antonio Spurs stopper Bruce Bowen.
“I’ve just been trying to dissect it so I can become a better defender and reach one of my goals of becoming one of the best defenders in the league,” Aminu said. “A lot of stuff is mental. I think it’s just small things like [hand placement] that’s going to help me become a better defender and then just making the effort to do it.”
For whatever reason, Aminu wasn’t an elite defender the last few seasons in New Orleans. According to Synergy Sports analytics, Aminu wasn’t even average last season.
That data ranked Aminu as the No. 387 overall defender in the league last season, allowing an average of 0.97 points per possession. He was particularly poor in isolation (0.99) and closing out against spot-up shooters (1.16), but he was very effective against pick-and-roll ballhandlers (0.72).
Owner Mark Cuban thinks that Aminu will benefit from a change of scenery after the Pelicans coaching staff crushed his confidence. There are several examples of players whose performance improved dramatically after leaving lottery teams to join the Mavs, including a certain center who served as the defensive anchor of Dallas’ championship team.
“He’s kind of in a similar situation when I first here,” Chandler said. “A high draft pick, bounced around a little bit. I feel like he hasn’t really found a place where he can stick and really make a name for himself. But I feel like being in this organization under coach [Rick] Carlisle and under a lot of the talented players that are here, he’ll learn a lot and I feel like he’ll grow as a player.”
Carlisle expects Aminu to thrive after getting immersed in the Mavs’ defensive system. Aminu’s motor has been questioned, but Carlisle dismisses that concern.
“I think his motor is deceptively good,” Carlisle said. “I think it’s better than it appears. He’s a guy that at times looks like he’s not high energy, but you can’t not be an energy guy and lead the league in rebounding [rate] from the three spot for two straight years. That’s just not possible.
“There’s an awful lot to like about him, not the least of which is that he’s a younger guy that we can plug into our system and hopefully have here for a while.”