After finishing last season with a top-10 defense and a bottom-10 offense, the Magic made the decision to double down on their strengths in the offseason. Rather than using their mid-level exception to add a play-maker or shot creator, Orlando used the full MLE to bring aboard Al-Farouq Aminu, a veteran forward best known for his perimeter defense.
As Aminu recently explained to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, improving that defense and making it one of the NBA’s very best units is a priority for the Magic.
“We discuss it every day. We want to be a top-five defensive team, if not No. 1,” Aminu said. “I think it’s definitely something that this team has the ability to do and we just have to continue to click together and understand where we need to be in order to do it. I think the more and more we play together and get that cohesiveness, the better we’ll become on defense. And out of the gate, we’re already talented on defense. Now, it’s just getting that continuity and that will take us over the top.”
Although the Magic currently rank third in defensive rating, the team has the NBA’s second-worst offensive rating, which has contributed to a slow start (4-7) this season. Those struggles have prompted head coach Steve Clifford to experiment a little with his rotation, and that experimentation hasn’t benefited Aminu, who only played two minutes in Orlando’s win over the Sixers on Wednesday. After averaging 24.1 minutes in the team’s first seven games, Aminu has played just 11.9 MPG in the last four.
Aminu is in the first year of a three-year contract worth over $29MM, so it’d be a surprise if he’s removed from the rotation altogether. However, it may be a while before we see him match the 29 minutes he logged on opening night.
Still, when the 29-year-old spoke recently to Kennedy, he was happy with his decision to join the Magic in the summer and optimistic about what he could bring the team. Here are a few highlights from that conversation, which is worth checking out in full:
On why Aminu chose the Magic in free agency:
“I like that they’re a young team and I thought that I could bring some veteran leadership to them. Also, they went to the playoffs last year, so I knew they had a good team. I like their style of play and different things like that. I’m glad I made that decision.”
On whether he’s excited about the Magic’s young core:
“Yeah, for sure. I really wanted to play a part in molding them. In a couple of years, when these guys are in their prime and doing their thing, it’ll be cool to be able to say that I put my touch on that. That’ll be cool. I was talking to them the other day and I told them, ‘Y’all are going to make a lot of money! Y’all play the right way, y’all are young and the league is just changing. Guys are getting paid.'”
On leaving Portland after spending four seasons with the Trail Blazers:
“It was [tough] because I’m leaving the guys I was playing with, but a lot of the guys ended up leaving anyway, so it was kind of like, ‘Well, nobody is there.’ Not ‘nobody,’ but you know what I mean. The gang’s not even there anymore anyway, so it wouldn’t have been the same even if I had stayed.
“It’s not the organization, it’s the people that you get to work with every day that you end up [getting close with]. … Sometimes, it’s just one person; like, I remember the first time it was Ed [Davis]. Me and him came into Portland together and we became really cool. Then, after three years, he was gone and that was tough. Then, I started becoming really cool with Moe [Harkless] and Evan [Turner] and now they’re gone, so it’s like, man… It’s kind of already tough to make friends in this industry anyway and then guys move on. And you still get to talk to them and stay close, but it’s different. But I think that’s why it isn’t as traumatic because those guys are in different places anyway, so the gang is gone.”