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Appreciating What Al-Farouq Aminu Brings to the Blazers

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Why Al-Farouq Aminu is Mom’s Favorite despite handful of turnovers for the Trail Blazers this week.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, Team Mom highlights her favorites plays, players and other things that made the Trail Blazers fun to watch. Who is Mom’s Favorite this week? Did anyone get put in the dog house? What were your favorite things this week? Let us know in the comments below.

Week 20 Feb 17-23. Cleveland Cavaliers (W), Boston Celtics (W), Toronto Raptors (L)

Mom’s Favorite

Getting mad at Al-Farouq Aminu for a couple of ugly turnovers and a bad night offensively is like getting mad at your grandma for burning the meatloaf. After everything she’s done for you, all those cards with $5 in them on your birthday, and all those cinnamon buns she’s shaped for you with her aging hands, all those stories she’s preserved for the family and the quilts she has stitched together to keep you warm, you’re going to get mad at her because the meatloaf was dry?

Let me start by saying that I am fully aware that Aminu had some turnovers against Toronto that were real doozies. In fact, when it comes to turnovers, it’s hard to think of someone in the NBA who coughs it up with as much elan as Chief. If you only enjoy perfectly executed basketball, don’t watch this collection of particularly invigorating turnovers:

Dropped ball? Check. Bad pass? Check. Traveling? Check. Over-ambitious drive-to-the-hoop scoop-up-and-under gone-wrong? Check. I get it, it is tough to watch. With evidence such as this, you might think he’s a turnover machine. Well, he’s not.

Aminu is averaging .8 turnovers per game. That is one (1) per 36 minutes. According to Cleaning the Glass, he’s in the 90th percentile for turnover percentage among bigs in the league.

And listen, if you can’t handle him at his worst, you don’t deserve him at his best. He’s made some great plays this season. His drives that do work out are so much fun. Here is my favorite from Friday night (the same night Twitter was melting down over his turnovers): Danny Green tries to contain him, Kawhi Leonard swipes ineffectively, and Marc Gasol stands there in confusion wondering how Aminu just scrambled past two great defenders:

Over and over again this season, Aminu has been there with timely rebounds or he’s rainbowed in a three point shot that either starts a run or puts the Blazers over the top. Here are just some of his fourth quarter threes from games that were close and the pressure was on:

Where would this team be without Aminu’s defense? He regularly draws the toughest defensive matchups. In three meetings against the Los Angeles Lakers this season, he guarded LeBron James an average of 58 possessions. He stuck to Anthony Davis for 52 possessions in the one game he played against the Blazers, along with 45 possessions per game in two games against Giannis Antetokounmpo, and 42.8 possessions per game in four games against Kevin Durant. You get the idea. Do you know how many of the 21 players he matched up against for more than 30 possessions had a positive points differential? Four. Compare that to Jusuf Nurkic who has defended 27 players for more than 30 possessions. Ten of them had a positive points differential.

Aminu is the only Trail Blazer who has played in every game this season. He has the highest offensive rating, the second best net rating, and the lowest usage rate of anyone besides Skal Labissiere. Over the last ten games he’s shooting 50 percent from the field, 52.5 percent from three and 94.1 percent from the free throw line in addition to grabbing six rebounds and dishing out two assists. For a player who hangs his hat on defense, he commits surprisingly few fouls (1.9 per game).

Finally, at $6.9 million, he is the seventh highest paid player on the team, making half a million dollars less this year than he did last season. Portland fans have been crying out for an effective three-and-D player and here he is. #AminuAppreciationSociety

Gold Star

Busy hands since the All Star break. Blazers are averaging only 6.7 steals per game this season, which has them tied with the Clippers for 25th in the league. Since the break, however, they have been averaging 8 per game. The increase is due almost entirely to Maurice Harkless who has boosted his average from .9 to 2.4 per game. Steals change momentum, energize the team and lead to good things like this:

Honorable Mentions

Seth’s first dunk. Seth Curry has played in 173 NBA games and on Friday night against the Raptors, he soared in for his very first dunk. Okay, so not exactly like one of the flying Turtle Jake Layman’s signature dunks, but its a start. It is recorded as a dunk on nba.com. I checked.

Raining 3s. CJ McCollum hit 7-8 and Seth Curry hit 5-5 from beyond the arc against Cleveland on Wednesday. As a team they shot 8-8 in the second quarter.

Congratulations to Coach Stotts for Western Conference Coach of the Month for February.

They grow up so fast. Dame Jr took some big steps this week!

And speaking of Dame Jr, this photo of Dame FaceTiming with his son is just too too (too) cute!

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That will do it for this week’s Mom’s Favorite. What were your favorite things that happened with the Trail Blazers this week? Let us know in the comments below!