This year’s NBA Draft class is unique when compared to year’s past. There are the two superstars at the top (Wall and Turner). Then there are about eight to 10 guys who will be drafted based almost purely on potential before we get to the mid-first round, back to players who are ready to step in, compete for a spot in an eight or nine man rotation, and make an impact.
Al-Farouq Aminu will be drafted based on what teams expect him to contribute two or three years from now and not for an immediate imprint.
Though he’s a bit of a tweener in terms of position at the next level (is he a small forward of power forward, or some sort of hybrid of the two?), his unmatchable athleticism and tremendous length give him a sizeable advantage over the rest of the 21-and-under class of this year’s forwards.
NBA Position: SF/PF
Weight: 215 lbs.
School: Wake Forest
Like Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, and Ed Davis, Aminu will be selected on potential and upside—what can he do five years from now?
When you watch Aminu in game film, practice, workouts, or combine drills, the first thing that leaps out is his pure athletic talents. He’s one of the most physically gifted players in the 2010 crop. And he just looks like a basketball player; if you saw him walking down the street or flying up-and-down the court in a pick-up game, you would assume he’s the best athlete on the court. And most of the time, you’d be right.
Because of that, he was a very difficult player to defend in college. He always plays with high energy; couple that with his natural athletic abilities and it’s very difficult for undersized small forwards or slower power forwards to keep up with him. He dominated the offensive glass, pulling in 4.3 rebounds a game on that end.
Versatility is another high selling point for Aminu. Aside from Evan Turner, he might be the most versatile player in the draft. As mentioned before, his size makes it difficult for small forwards to match up with him. But he also has the length (7’3 ¼” wingspan) to bother opposing players in the post, and his freakishly long arms allow him to control any tips near the rim, and to roam the weak-side and come flying across the paint to block shots.
Defensively, he’s quick enough on his feet to keep up with small forwards off the dribble. He also uses lankiness to his advantage when defending post players; he has the size to challenge almost any shot, and he’s an excellent rebounder—he pulled down nearly 11 a game last year.
While he’s not very polished on offense, he does have a smooth stroke on his jumper. He can step out to the NBA three-point line (knocked down nearly 50 percent of his three-pointers in workouts) and is fairly efficient with his mid-range game.
Aminu is a lot like a dish of beef bourguignon in its early stages: there are a lot of good ingredients in the pot, but it’s going to take time for the flavors to gel together and create a nice, consistent product.
Offensively, his game is nowhere where it needs to be in order to be an effective NBA player. While he does have good range on his jumper, it’s very up-and-down. And he doesn’t have a go-to move on the block, which will make it very difficult for him to score regularly.
He’s initially going to find a transition to the NBA power forward spot to be quite difficult. He won’t be going up against 6’6”/6’7”, 200 lb. 20-year olds; instead, he’ll be playing against 6’10”, 250 lb. beasts that can match or best him in terms of athleticism and skill. He’ll need to get stronger if he wants to bang bodies down low.
As mentioned earlier, he’s a bit of a tweener. He either needs to really improve his outside game to lock himself into the small forward spot, or put on weight so he’s not overmatched inside.
But the bright spot is he’s not even 20 years old yet. He has time to grow into his body, mature mentally, and harness all of his bright spots (athleticism, length, versatility, and a blue-collar persona).
NBA Comparison: Jeff Green
Draft Projection: Mid-lottery