5 Reasons Al-Farouq Aminu Has Balled out to Start the 2012-13 NBA Season
Aminu has been aggressive, physical and nothing short of electric. Through three games, he has probably been the New Orleans Hornets' best player.
Everyone knew he had the potential to play at the NBA level (I wasn't as high on him as many draft experts), but that potential had not been displayed often in his first two NBA seasons.
Thus, the "why" question ruminates. Why is Al-Farouq Aminu now looking like the player we all thought he could be?
Here are five likely reasons.
1. He's in a Contract Year
Before the October 31st deadline, the New Orleans Hornets had to decide whether to extend Greivis Vasquez, Xavier Henry and Aminu (from now on referred to as either Aminu or AFA) for the 2013-14 season. It is a strange aspect of the NBA CBA that no other sport has (that is, extending players a full year in advance).
Hoops Rumors reported last week that Dell Demps elected not to lock Tom Benson's money into another year of AFA prior to seeing him play this season. Though it is not fair to say Aminu would not be off to this start had he been extended (which we'll discuss later on), it is fair to say that Aminu has a little extra motivation, as he now knows he's playing for an NBA contract next season and beyond.
Statistics would not do the adage justice. Let's just say Aminu wouldn't be the first athlete to play better in a contract year.
2. The Competition for a Starting Job Helps, Too
Lance Thomas started preseason games at small forward for the Hornets this season. Rookie Darius Miller also had a chance to find himself in the lineup at small forward.
Yet it was Aminu, the presumed starter heading into training camp, who finally won the battle for the starting spot one day before the season opener.
Though it's not one of the Hornets' mottos under Monty Williams, it was clear that one thing Dell Demps and Williams aimed for heading into this year's camp was competition. Clearly, the Hornets had competition at each spot on the roster, even power forward.
Though it seemed that competition had yielded little in positive results through the preseason, it is now clear that AFA benefited from that competition as much as anyone. His play through three games has been inspired and much more focused than in his first two years in the league.
3. His Olympic Experience Has Been a Huge Benefit
Not enough can be said about the great benefit many players have received to their game from playing in the Olympics, or summer international competition.
The 2010 USA FIBA team, under the direction of Coach K, was credited for growing pretty much every player's game from that team as they returned to the NBA. Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and Eric Gordon (gulp) were just a few players whose game grew by leaps and bounds in the 2010-11 NBA season.
It should be no surprise that Aminu, who played for Nigeria in this year's Olympics, would grow tremendously. He was one of Nigeria's best players and thus was asked to carry his team against better competition.
That experience allowed Aminu to develop a go-to guy type of attitude. He now expects to be effective at all times and in all spots on the court. Being an NBA starter is no longer a big deal to him.
In fact, AFA plays each game now like he is one of the best players on the court.
Perhaps the Olympic experience that has benefited Aminu can be summed up in one simple word: confidence.
4. It's His Third Year in the League and Second in Monty's System
AFA came into the league as a 20-year-old sophomore from Wake Forest. As the eighth pick in the 2010 draft, Aminu had high expectations despite two inconsistent seasons in the ACC.
Aminu had great college statistics. He averaged just shy of 16 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. His per-40-minutes statistics were obviously even more outrageous.
Statistically speaking, only his efficiency numbers caused some concerns for his prospects as an NBA player. Until this season, those concerns were the ones that were a reality.
But (in an admittedly small sample size) he has raised his points per game from 6.0 to 13.3 and rebounds from 4.7 to 7.0.
And those are only statistics. Watching him play helps the evaluation process tremendously as well. Aminu looks aggressive and is playing with a different energy level than seen in either of his first two seasons in the league.
Some of that has to be due to the fact the game has slowed down for him. And mentally he gets it now. Those two factors allow him to play smarter and with less caution. The result is simply a more productive Aminu.
5. Opportunities Abound
With Eric Gordon not in the lineup, and Anthony Davis missing the past game-and-a-half, somebody had to step up for the Hornets. Someone has to score and make plays, especially if the team wants to have any success.
Greivis Vasquez has been outstanding through three games as well. But Aminu has benefited most from the opportunities presented from the team's two best players missing action.
Aminu's usage rate and PER through three games are at the top of the league. He is averaging 1.04 points per times he touches the basketball. His PER is 19.0. He is grabbing 16.3 percent of the team's rebounds, 26.3 percent of the team's blocks and 28.6 percent of the team's steals.
In short, Aminu has been the team through three games in 2012. Opportunities abound for Aminu, and he's made the most of them thus far.
Those opportunities figure to continue to present themselves for him in 2012-13.
The big questions is, can he keep this up?
I say because of the Olympic experience, being a year older and wiser in the NBA and the motivation of an NBA contract, I say yes. Look for Aminu to continue to ball out this season for the New Orleans Hornets.
All statistics taken from Draftexpress.com.
Follow @BRwillosgood for Hornets, Saints and other sports-related news, opinions and musings.