A closer look at Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu
PORTLAND, Ore. – This wasn’t a good season for the Blazers. The team didn’t live up to expectations and the majority of the players on the team came up short in that department as well.
The Blazers, however, finished the regular season with 41 wins, the picture of mediocrity. The team played much better after the All-Star break with an 18-8 record, fourth-best in the NBA. The Blazers were especially lifted by their performance in March, when Portland won 13 of 16 games. But even though the Blazers finished the regular season strong and made the playoffs, the season was a disappointment overall.
Some of the grades for the Blazers for this season won’t be pretty. They reflect the reality of what happened all season, not just in March.
The good news is the book has closed on the 2016-17 season. The players can work this summer to improve their games. The front office can make smart moves to improve the roster. Everyone gets a fresh slate, a blank report card, when training camp begins next October.
GRAPHIC INSTRUCTIONS: Take a stroll around the court and check out the player cards for the nine rotation members of the 2016-17 Portland Trail Blazers. Click on each card to open a larger version. Click on the card again to flip it over and see the back. To close the card you’re looking at, click it one more time. Mobile users, rotate your phone to see the full graphic.
- Reserve forward
- Player impact estimate score: 9.2
- Grade: C-
When Aminu got hurt in November, he showed how valuable he was to the Blazers. Portland’s starting power forward to begin the season, Aminu was hurt on Nov. 8, injuring his left calf against the Phoenix Suns. At the time, the Blazers were 4-3 and coming off road wins against the Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies. Aminu went on to miss 18 of the Blazers’ next 22 games recovering from the injury.
Without their best defensive player, the Blazers went 8-14 and their already shaky defense imploded, allowing 114.3 points per game.
With Aminu on the court, the Blazers allowed 105.9 points per 100 possessions this season. Among Blazers who played more than 400 minutes this season, only Jusuf Nurkic (103.7) and Noah Vonleh (105.1) were better. Aminu’s excellent on-ball defense and ability to switch over to guard point guards makes him valuable to the Blazers.
Aminu rated as an elite isolation defender during the 2016-17 season. He allowed 0.63 points per possession in isolation plays, which ranked in the top 10 percent of the league.
Aminu is a streaky offensive player. Sometimes he’s a good 3-point shooter, sometimes he’s not. Sometimes he breaks down his defender to get to the basket, other times he fumbles the ball away seemingly every time he tries.
Over the first three months this season, Aminu shot about 27 percent from the 3-point line, well below his 36-percent average last season. But once the calendar turned to February, he flipped a switch, shooting 42 percent in February and March and 35 percent in April.
Aminu was a mixed bag in the playoffs, too. He shot 41 percent from distance in the four games against the Warriors, but until he hit 5 of 9 in Game 4, he had missed six of his eight attempts in the first three games.
As he showed the last half of this season, Aminu's best role is as a versatile role player coming off the bench. Once he was relegated to the bench in late January, Aminu improved his scoring, shooting (on field goals, 3-pointers and free throws) and rebounding. He also has two years left on a very good contract – he’ll make $7.3 million next season and $6.9 million the season after.
Blazers report cards
Note: Report cards weren’t made for Ed Davis, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, Shabazz Napier or Tim Quarterman, because they played too few games and minutes for an accurate assessment of their value.
How we determined each player's grade
These grades reflect where each player fits within the hierarchy of the league, as judged by statistical data. The NBA statistic “Player Impact Estimate” (PIE) was the data point used to calculate each grade.
According to NBA.com, PIE “measures a player’s overall statistical contribution” while they’re on the court. It is a comparable stat to Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
The formula to compute the statistic incorporates points, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots, personal fouls and turnovers.
For context, Russell Westbrook had the highest PIE in the NBA with a score of 23, followed by Anthony Davis with a score of 19.2. An average player in the NBA, according to the PIE statistic, had a score between 10 and 11 and included players like Otto Porter Jr. and Marcin Gortat.
19 PIE and up — A+
17.7-18.9 — A
16.4-17.6 — A-
15.1-16.3 — B+
13.8-15.0 — B
12.5-13.7 — B-
11.2-12.4 — C+
9.9-11.1 — C
8.6-9.8 — C-
7.3-8.5 — D+
6-7.2 — D
4.7-5.9 — D-
3.4-4.6 — F+
2.1-3.3 — F
0-2.0 — F-
Jared Cowley is a digital producer at KGW. Follow him on Twitter here.