Is Al-Farouq Aminu a worthwhile trade target for the Minnesota Timberwolves?
The Minnesota Timberwolves have two star players to build around. But there isn’t much else that is set in stone with the roster.
While the Wolves’ roster is relatively deep, the upside is modest, and there aren’t many players that are certain to be starting-caliber players in the near future.
That means that president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and the front office are undoubtedly on the hunt for solid, proven NBA starters to plug into a rotation that they hope can challenge for the playoffs in 2021.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Considering Al-Farouq Aminu as a trade target
The idea of the Wolves acquiring Al-Farouq Aminu from the Orlando Magic comes from Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes, who underwent the odious task of coming up with a “desperation trade” for each of the worst 10 NBA teams. The criteria for the trade is that it should basically vault each team to the playoffs.
That’s not necessarily a truly realistic task for all 10 teams, and I’m not about to make the argument that if the Wolves acquired Aminu, they would suddenly be a playoff team.
Nonetheless, let’s explore the proposed trade and the pros and cons of such a move.
It was only a year ago that Aminu started 81 games for a 53-win Portland team that went to the Western Conference Finals. He signed a three-year, $29 million deal with the Magic last offseason but tore his meniscus after appearing in just 18 games. Aminu is not with the team for the restart that is ongoing in Orlando.
First, let’s talk about the pros of a deal like this. Pending his health, Aminu is a perfect fit for one of the two starting wing spots on the Minnesota Timberwolves. Over the past four seasons with the Trail Blazers, Aminu shot 35.3 percent from 3-point range on four attempts per game.
While his per-game averages over that span don’t exactly jump off the page (9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds), he was a solid contributor on offense and a reliable spot-up shooter while maintaining a low usage rate. Aminu hit on 39.7 percent of his attempts from the corners as a member of the Blazers and has always been an effective cutter and decent enough in transition.
On defense, Aminu has been one of the best switchable forwards in the league in recent years. He can guard both 3s and 4s with ease and is a great team defender.
In 2018-19, his final season in Portland, Aminu ranked No. 12 in ESPN’s overall Real Plus-Minus among players classified as power forwards and had positive marks on both the offensive and defensive sides of the metric.
There’s no question that a healthy, in-his-prime Aminu would improve the Wolves’ starting lineup;
Of course, the problem is that Aminu is coming off of knee surgery and will be 30 years old at the start of next season. The contract (a little over $9 million each of the next two years) isn’t awful, but it eats up a bit more of the already-limited cap space that Minnesota has.
Sending Jarrett Culver to Orlando is palatable if the Wolves truly believe that Culver’s upside is limited after what they saw from his rookie year. For that reason, this truly falls into “desperation” category as far as trades go.
Yes, Culver was awful on offense. But he was solid defensively and reportedly has the work ethic and makeup to suggest that there is an improvement to be had. His upside is certainly higher than what Aminu will bring to the table in his age-30 and age-31 seasons, and unless the Wolves are adopting a “45 wins or bust” mentality for next year, giving up on Culver for a hobbled and aging Aminu probably isn’t the proper long-term play.
However, if the Wolves can get a healthier two-way player closer to their prime years and must include Culver in such a deal … that’s a trade that Rosas will no doubt seriously consider.