Pelicans Offseason Update: Al-Farouq Aminu

Leading up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, will provide a player-by-player examination of the New Orleans Pelicans, with input from coaches, broadcasters, writers and fans. We’ll review the 2012-13 campaign of each New Orleans player who appeared in at least half of the team’s games, while also looking ahead to the inaugural 2013-14 Pelicans season. We continue our offseason updates by profiling Al-Farouq Aminu, who became the full-time starter at small forward in his second year as a member of New Orleans:

Al-Farouq Aminu

Key averages: 7.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.2 steals in 76 games (71 starts)

Aminu’s third NBA season was a bit of a roller coaster, but by the time New Orleans played its final game on April 17, the small forward had emerged as a much improved player. After a promising open to the season in which he started the first 17 games, Aminu was temporarily removed from the first unit in December and even picked up six DNPs due to coach’s decision. He did not play in any of New Orleans’ games between Dec. 18-28, a span head coach Monty Williams described as Aminu’s chance to assess how he could better help the team. From Jan. 5 through the end of the regular season, Aminu started 50 consecutive games, showing a better grasp of his individual strengths and weaknesses. The 6-foot-9, 215-pounder played more under control and altered his shot selection, resulting in a career-best field-goal percentage of 47.5 (he shot just 41.1 in 2011-12). He also reduced his three-point attempts from 47 to 19, despite playing 500 more minutes. His biggest strides came in the rebounding department, where his average jumped from 4.7 to 7.7. Aminu is now one of New Orleans’ handful of free agents. “This is my first free agency, so it’s kind of new to me,” he said of the process, which officially begins July 1. “I don’t know exactly what to expect, but I can only worry about today.”

It only took 12 minutes of game action to realize that April 17 would be a special night for Aminu. In New Orleans’ season finale at Dallas, the high-flyer grabbed 14 rebounds in the first quarter alone, breaking a franchise record that was set in 1988-89, the club’s first-ever season. Aminu’s career high in boards had been 16, but he easily breezed past that en route to a 20-rebound outing against the Mavericks. Though Dallas prevailed by a 99-87 margin, Aminu also turned in one of his top offensive games, scoring 16 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the field. The 16 points represented his third-best scoring output of 2012-13.

"I want to work on everything in my game this offseason – ballhandling, shooting – but especially shooting. You can always improve on every part of your game. The thing I think I improved the most this season was learning how to play without the basketball. I got a lot better at cutting. I think my defense got better as well. I made some strides in that area. I feel like this season, with me being a starter and playing the role I did, it helped me know where I can be effective and how I can most help a team." – Al-Farouq Aminu "When Chief first got here, he was 240 or 245 (pounds after the 2011 NBA lockout). He’s trimmed his body down. He’s the best-shape athlete we have. He plays a ton of minutes. He never complains about injuries. He’s probably our best team defender, because he covers up a lot of mistakes. I don’t know of any small forwards in the league that rebound at his rate. He wasn’t doing all this stuff when he came (to New Orleans). We’d love to see him knock down some jump shots, but he’s going to have a summer with us to improve on that, even if he’s in a free-agency situation. We’re going to have him here, as long as he wants to be here, working on his shot. If he goes to another team (even after working out in New Orleans), that’s cool with us. But we want to make sure that he has all the equipment he needs to become a better player. He’s come a long way, there’s no doubt about it." - Monty Williams What was Al-Farouq Aminu’s biggest area of improvement during the 2012-13 season?

@RyanFlynn11: His rebounding has always been a strong skill of his. More consistent hustle to take advantage of that skill was an improvement.

@PatrickClay10: Aside from rebounding, he showed good awareness in transition. He was often the first one out on a fast break.

@LoganLovesLyfe: Rebounding and I even saw him drain a few jumpers here and there.

@EmmaLoyless: He was the rebound king!!!