Al-Farouq Aminu

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Western Conference

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. With the playoffs in full swing, we turn our attention to the Western Conference:

Patrick Beverley, Clippers, 30, PG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $23MM deal in 2015
Taking a charge while holding one his shoes that came loose epitomizes how Beverley and his team have played during the series. There’s a huge talent gap between them and the Warriors but they refuse to give an inch. Beverley has done a whole lot more than get under Kevin Durant‘s skin. He’s second on the team in assists and rebounds through the first five games while shooting 42.9% from deep. In Games 4 and 5, he averaged 14.5 PPG, 12 RPG and 4.5 APG. Beverley will get a nice raise this summer, whether he lands a starting job or a sixth man role.

Al-Farouq Aminu, Trail Blazers, 28, SF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $30MM deal in 2015
Portland’s glue guy played an underrated role in the team’s first-round knockout of the Thunder. He was second on the team in defensive rebounds, a major factor with Jusuf Nurkic sidelined. He also led the team in blocks, was second in steals and shot 40.9% from distance, along with providing his usual solid defense. Aminu doesn’t dazzle but he quietly does his job. Reliable, durable role players like Aminu will always have suitors and he’ll receive a full mid-level exception or more on the open market.

Jordan Bell, Warriors, 24, PF/C (Down) — Signed to a two-year, $2.2MM deal in 2017
DeMarcus Cousins‘ season-ending injury hasn’t helped Bell get on the court. He only played 14 minutes in the first five games against the Clippers and was benched in Games 4 and 5. Bell’s immaturity has irked the staff, including a late-season suspension for making unauthorized charges to assistant coach Mike Brown‘s hotel room. Bell can be a restricted free agent if the Warriors extend a $1.8MM qualifying offer, but the 2017 second-round pick doesn’t appear to have a future with the organization.

Markieff Morris, Wizards, 29, SF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $57.3K deal in 2019
Brother Marcus Morris ripped the Thunder coaching staff over Markieff’s limited role during the postseason. Markieff only played four minutes in the 118-115 Game 5 loss to Portland that ended the Thunder’s season. He wasn’t much of a factor in the first four games of the season, when he averaged around 13 MPG. Markieff praised the organization afterward but his minimal impact won’t help in unrestricted free agency. Add in the neck issue that limited him to 58 regular-season games and Morris won’t have teams beating down his door.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Northwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Northwest Division:

Tyler Lydon, Nuggets, 22, PF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3.45MM deal in 2017
Lydon was the 24th overall pick in 2017 and acquired from Utah in a draft-day deal. He didn’t make much of an impression as a rookie, as the Nuggets declined his third-year option in October. Lydon has appeared in 21 games this season, mostly during garbage time. At the G League level, Lydon has averaged 5.3 three-point attempts and made 36.7%. He’s also rebounded well (8.5 in 31.3 MPG). He’ll be seeking a fresh start this summer, most likely with a rebuilding team that can offer him a greater opportunity.

Anthony Tolliver, Timberwolves, 33, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $5.75MM deal in 2018
Tolliver carved out a steady role under former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and delivered a career year last season. He averaged 8.9 PPG in 22.2 MPG and shot 43.6% from distance, and when he hit the free agent market, he drew interest from the Clippers, Mavericks, and Sixers as well as the Timberwolves. It hasn’t gone well in Minnesota, as Tolliver completely dropped out of Tom Thibodeau’s rotation in mid-November. He’s seen more action under Ryan Saunders but hasn’t made an impact. He’ll likely have to settle for the veteran’s minimum this summer to stay in the league.

Nerlens Noel, Thunder, 24, PF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3.74MM deal in 2018
Noel has a player option worth less than $2MM and it’s likely he’ll decline it and take his chances on the open market. Noel has carved out a steady bench role with the Thunder and provided a defensive presence, along with an occasional scoring outburst. His Defensive Box Plus/Minus rating, according to Basketball-Reference, is an outstanding 5.8. He posted a 22-point, 13-rebound stat line in 22 minutes in a loss to New Orleans on Thursday. Noel, the sixth overall pick in 2013, has revived his career to some extent after a lost season in Dallas.

Al-Farouq Aminu, Trail Blazers, 28, PF (Up) — Signed to a four-year, $30MM deal in 2015
The quintessential glue guy, Aminu never puts up big numbers but he does a little bit of everything for a playoff-bound team in the West. He’s averaging a career-best 7.9 RPG in 29.0 MPG and his defensive versatility makes him indispensable on a team lacking in stoppers. He’s also become a respectable – if not prolific – 3-point shooter (35.8%). It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if Aminu re-signs with Portland but he’ll have several suitors in July and shouldn’t have any trouble getting a multi-year deal.

Royce O’Neale, Jazz, 25, SF (Up)– Signed to a three-year, $3.8MM deal in 2017
O’Neale, undrafted out of Baylor, has been a rotation player all season for Utah. He’s often the the last offensive option on the court but he’s pumped up his production this month. He averaged 13.8 PPG and 4.3 RPG in the last four games prior to the All-Star break. He’s shooting an outstanding 43.9% from long range and advanced defensive metrics are also kind to him (2.2 Defensive Box Plus/Minus). O’Neale’s $1.62MM salary for next season isn’t fully guaranteed until next January but the Jazz might do that a lot sooner and perhaps even negotiate an extension with the swingman.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Rumors: Butler, Porter, Thunder, Aminu

The Nets, Knicks, Nuggets, Sixers and Lakers are potential landing spots for Jimmy Butler if the Timberwolves decide to trade him before he hits free agency next summer, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype opines. Butler is reportedly meeting with Minnesota’s brass on Monday to discuss his future with the organization. The Nets could offer a package featuring the Nuggets’ top-12 protected 2019 first-round pick, as well as defensive-minded wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, while Denver could make either Jamal MurrayGary Harris and Michael Porter Jr. the centerpiece in a deal for the All-Star wing, Urbina adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Porter is trying to return to full strength after two back surgeries and there’s no guarantee he’ll play this season, Christopher Dempsey of the team’s website writes in a player profile. The Nuggets will keep him on the sidelines until they’re convinced the rookie forward won’t have any setbacks. There’s no timetable on when he will be ready to make his debut, Dempsey adds.
  • Defense will be the Thunder’s biggest strengths this season, according to Basketball Insiders’ season preview of the team. The return of Andre Roberson from his knee injury and the subtraction of Carmelo Anthony give the Thunder five above-average-to-elite defenders in their lineup. Oklahoma City’s biggest issue is closing out games but without the chemistry issues caused by trying to fit Anthony in with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, its performances in the clutch should also improve this season.
  • Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu and center Jusuf Nurkic have returned to Portland after competing in regional FIBA World Cup qualifiers last week, according to Casey Holdahl of the team’s website. Aminu helped Nigeria go 3-0 during the tournament but Bosnia and Herzegovina went winless in two games despite the efforts of Nurkic.
  • Shooting guard Darius Johnson-Odom has remained in Minnesota to work out following his recent tryout with the Timberwolves, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. He could still be added to the training camp roster, Wolfson adds.

And-Ones: NBA Africa Game, Global Camp, Upshaw

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Sixers center Joel Embiid will headline the rosters in this summer’s NBA Africa Game, the league announced today. The event, which will take place on Saturday, August 4 in Pretoria, South Africa, will feature a Team Africa vs. Team World format, with Cameroon native Embiid heading Team Africa and DeRozan representing Team World.

Joining Embiid on Team Africa will be fellow NBAers Al-Farouq Aminu, Bismack Biyombo, Cheick Diallo, Evan Fournier, Serge Ibaka, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Pascal Siakam. DeRozan’s teamates on Team World will include Harrison Barnes, Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Gay, Khris Middleton, and Hassan Whiteside.

Here are a few more odds and ends from across the basketball world:

  • A total of 40 draft-eligible prospects from outside the United States will take part in the NBA Global Camp 2018 in Treviso, Italy from June 2-5, the NBA announced on Wednesday. While Luka Doncic won’t attend the pre-draft showcase, there will be plenty of prospects worth watching, including Cedevita forward Dzanan Musa, who is the No. 19 prospect on Jonathan Givony’s big board at ESPN.com.
  • The mother of Zeke Upshaw, the G League player who passed away earlier this year after collapsing during a Grand Rapids Drive game, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the NBA and the Pistons of negligence. The suit alleges that the defendants failed to provide the Drive with the “the resources, policies, and procedures reasonably necessary” to prevent or handle Upshaw’s collapse. Noah Trister of The Associated Press has the full story and more details.
  • Now that two-way contracts have been in effect for nearly a full year, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days explores what sort of changes we may see to the rules surrounding those contracts in the future.

Northwest Notes: Aminu, Thunder, Timberwolves

Before he signed with the Trail Blazers as a free agent in 2015, veteran forward Al-Farouq Aminu had converted just 28.6% of his career three-point attempts. However, he knew he’d be counted on to improve his outside shot after signing a lucrative four-year deal with Portland, and he has delivered so far. Aminu has made 36.1% of his threes during his time with the Blazers, including a career-best 42.1% this season.

“I’ve always been a slasher, so knowing the instincts and what you’re supposed to be doing as a shooter and how they need you for a team, it’s different,” Aminu said, per Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. “But you learn, for sure, because you want to stick around.”

Aminu remains under contract in Portland for one more season beyond this year, but if he continues to knock down outside shots at an improve rate, he should be a very appealing three-and-D target in free agency in 2019.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Thunder forward Patrick Patterson was fined $10K this week for publicly criticizing the NBA’s officiating, per an Associated Press report. After a blown call cost OKC a game on Friday, Patterson published a tweet on Saturday suggesting that there “needs to be some kind of consequence for [referees’] downright awfulness rather than pointless apologies from their bosses.”
  • Second-year guard Alex Abrines continues to make more than 38% of his three-point attempts, but his inconsistency on the defensive end has cost him minutes with the Thunder, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Given his $5.725MM salary, Abrines could become a nice mid-sized trade chip for the Thunder at the deadline if he’s not a regular part of the club’s rotation.
  • The positive energy surrounding the Timberwolves as of late has been noticeable, as the new-look roster is hitting its stride. “I feel like everyone’s comfortable,” Andrew Wiggins said, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “Everyone’s together. Everyone’s playing together. Everyone likes each other. We’re in a good flow right now.”

Northwest Notes: Roberson, Aminu, J. Johnson, Craig

The Thunder’s slow start reached a new low tonight with a loss in Orlando, leaving a team expected to be among the NBA’s best after trading for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony with an 8-12 record and a 2-9 mark on the road. Part of the problem, suggests Erik Horne of The Oklahoman, is that Andre Roberson is an awkward fit in the starting lineup.

The starters perform well in the first quarter with a net rating [point differential per 100 possessions] of 23.8, the fourth-best mark in the league. However, their third quarter rating drops to 88.5, worst among the 16 NBA lineups that have played at least 60 minutes as a unit. Roberson is a defensive specialist, but opponents don’t respect his outside shot, especially from 3-point range, where he is hitting just 27%. Horne notes that Jerami Grant and Raymond Felton have logged nearly three times as many fourth quarter minutes as Roberson.

“I don’t necessarily feel like he’s uncomfortable,” coach Billy Donovan said of Roberson. “I do feel, with him getting acclimated to a new team, I just think some of that stuff’s going to take time. I’m not making excuses for our team, just dealing with the reality.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers will welcome forward Al-Farouq Aminu back Thursday night after missing 13 games with a sprained right ankle, relays Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. Portland expected Aminu to return in two to three weeks after he suffered the injury in a November 1 game, but he wound up missing almost the entire month. “It felt good to be back out there with the guys,” Aminu said after today’s practice. “Being able to contribute is always a good thing.”
  • Joe Johnson is making progress with his wrist injury and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, according to a story on the Jazz website. Johnson, who has been diagnosed with tendon instability in his right wrist, had another meeting with a hand specialist Tuesday. The 17-year veteran has played just seven games this season.
  • After three years of playing overseas, Nuggets forward Torrey Craig got his first taste of NBA action Tuesday, writes Christopher Dempsey of NBA.com. The 26-year-old signed a two-way contract over the summer and was called up to Denver this week after averaging 25.7 points per game in the G League. “It wasn’t too many nerves,” he said. “I’ve been playing basketball for a long time. So, I’m well adjusted to the atmosphere, to the game of basketball.”

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Ferguson, Aminu

The time is now for Nikola Jokic to blossom into a leader. Nuggets head coach Mike Malone recently told his third-year big man as much given the absence of veteran power forward Paul Millsap in the lineup, Gina Mizell of the Denver Post writes.

The Nuggets have stressed that they need to see Jokic exhibit more leadership qualities, his production on the floor, while impressive, no longer enough for a young team eager to claim its first playoff berth since 2013.

Mizell writes that Jokic came through this week, uncharacteristically speaking up to motivate a lethargic looking Nuggets roster one night and then showing off his mental toughness by returning to the court on an injured ankle the next time out.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

Al-Farouq Aminu Expected To Miss 2-3 Weeks

Al-Farouq Aminu, the Trail Blazers’ starting small forward, will be sidelined for the next two or three weeks due to a sprained right ankle, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian. The club has confirmed the diagnosis and the timeline.

Aminu, 27, had been off to a solid start this season, averaging 9.4 PPG and a career-high 8.1 RPG through eight games. He was also knocking down three-pointers at a career-high rate, making 1.6 per game with a .433 3PT%.

“It’s tough,” Damian Lillard said of his teammate on Thursday. “Chief (Aminu) is a huge part of our team. He does a lot of things that might not get mentioned all the time, might not show up on the stat sheet, but he’s as big a part of our team as just about anybody. Whatever the situation might be somebody’s going to have to step up and we’re going to have to figure out a way to get some wins.”

While Aminu will be sidelined until later in November, the Blazers did get another injured power forward, Noah Vonleh, back this week. Vonleh shifted into the starting lineup for Portland on Thursday in what was just his second game of the season.

Rookies Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins also could see a bump in playing time during Aminu’s absence, while Maurice Harkless may see more minutes at power forward, Richman writes.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Aminu, Hernangomez

The Nuggets have an opportunity to develop Jamal Murray into a significant part of their franchise for years to come, they just need to make sure that they handle things better than Denver’s NFL counterpart has handled their quarterback situation, Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post writes.

Those unfamiliar with the Broncos depth chart need only know that the club has attempted to eke into the postseason with a short-term quarterback rather than organically developing their younger, higher-ceiling, long-term quarterback. Kiszla fears that a hasty acquisition of Eric Bledsoe could put the Nuggets in a similarly short-sighted position.

While nobody is denying that Bledsoe is a solid NBA player, Kiszla writes that the Nuggets would be better off giving Murray the opportunity to learn to be a solid starter. The club should push his learning curve to find out just what he’s capable of.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

Northwest Notes: Stephenson, Turner, Blazers

Newly acquired Timberwolves guard Lance Stephenson squared off against his former team Friday and Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry had nothing but positive things to say about the 26-year-old journeyman, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

We had no problem whatsoever with him,” Gentry said regarding New Orleans’ decision to waive the then-15th man on their roster after a groin injury in November. “As a matter of fact, he probably raised our energy level as much as anyone. I think he’ll be fine. He’s playing for a great [Timberwolves] coach who loves energy and toughness and stuff like that.”

The Pelicans faced criticism at the time for parting ways with Stephenson as he recovered from the long-term injury but did so to free up space on their roster for Archie Goodwin (who has since been waived). Now Stephenson is back at full strength and on a 10-day contract looking to stick in Minnesota with a Timberwolves roster led by head coach Tom Thibodeau.

In two games with the Timberwolves so far, Stephenson has posted 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game. He’ll make $72K with Minnesota over the duration of his 10-day contract, in addition to the $1.2MM he’s owed by the Pelicans.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The news that Trail Blazers swingman Evan Turner will miss 5-6 weeks comes just as the offseason acquisition was starting to find a rhythm in Portland, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian. Turner’s absence could thrust Allen Crabbe and Moe Harkless into a bigger role defensively where Turner had been checking the opposing team’s most potent perimeter threat. In the same column, Richman also discusses the progress that Al-Farouq Aminu has made on the offensive end since being relegated to the bench.
  • With a 23-31 record, the Trail Blazers remain very much in the hunt for the final Western Conference playoff berth (Denver sits in the eight-seed at 24-29) but TNT analyst Kenny Smith is skeptical that they have enough resources. “I don’t think they have a lot of talent, honestly. I think that’s the problem,” Smith said. Molly Blue of The Oregonian relayed both Smith’s and Charles Barkley‘s reservations about the guard-heavy roster.
  • When budding Nuggets star Nikola Jokic dropped 40 points on the Knicks Friday, he became just the second Denver player to do so in Madison Square Garden, writes Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post. The last? David Thompson in 1978,