Thursday, June 24, 2010
Aminu goes 8th to Clippers
By Dave McMenamin
NEW YORK -- Al-Farouq Aminu stood out among a sea of future stars Thursday, wearing bold, dark-rimmed glasses that were so absurd they looked as if he borrowed them from Judah Friedlander.
(You know Friedlander as the guy with the trucker hat, ironic T-shirts and muttonchops who plays a dim-witted writer on the NBC television show "30 Rock.")
It's was hardly a look that inspired greatness, but it served a purpose. Even though the lenses were clear, Aminu's eyewear allowed his first look at the supposedly "cursed" Los Angeles Clippers franchise that drafted him No. 8 in the 2010 NBA draft to be a rose-colored one.
"Every team has a history either good or bad," Aminu said. "When you're drafted, you just try your best to change it for the good. That's what I'm trying to do."
For the second straight season, the Clippers drafted someone who played power forward at the college level, selecting Aminu, a 6-foot-9, 215-pound sophomore from Wake Forest, to join the 6-10, 251-pound Blake Griffin, last year's top pick, to hopefully form the frontcourt of the future for the franchise.
The Clippers rounded out their draft by selecting Griffin's former Oklahoma teammate, 6-4 shooting guard Willie Warren with the No. 54 pick in the second round.
Aminu, a descendant of Nigerian kings, averaged 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds and was named an honorable mention Associated Press All-American after last season.
"The thought process is that we have a gaping hole at the small forward position," Clippers general manager Neil Olshey said. "There's going to be a learning curve for Al-Farouq. He's only 19, he played out of position as a 4 at Wake Forest to help his team, but we think his eventual position is at small forward."
The Clippers have no players under contract who play small forward, as Travis Outlaw, Rasual Butler and Steve Novak are all free agents. Drafting Aminu lessens the urgency of pursuing a player such as Memphis' Rudy Gay should the Clippers strike out in the LeBron James sweepstakes.
Aminu should be comfortable sliding back to small forward, the position he played in his freshman season at Wake Forest when he shot 51.6 percent from the field, an excellent mark for a wing player. Griffin will play the power forward, the same spot he filled when he won national player of the year honors as a sophomore at Oklahoma.
"They can play together," said one Western Conference front office executive, dismissing any worry about overlap.
Said Aminu: "I can be more of the 3, I can play alongside of him. I don't think there will be a lot of headbutting in between us. I played with other 4s as well when I played with James Johnson [of the Chicago Bulls as college teammates], so it will be the same thing with Blake."
Aminu will join a team with a backcourt that features veteran Baron Davis and up-and-comer Eric Gordon, and a frontline that includes Chris Kaman, who was an All-Star last season, as well as Griffin.
Aminu, 19, said he already knows some of his teammates ... sort of.
"I always liked the Clippers," Aminu said. "I remember playing with them in video games last year because I knew they got good players. It just never really got rolling for them [in real life] and the injuries kind of set them back."
The Clippers also acquired the rights to Eric Bledsoe, a 6-1 point guard who averaged 11.3 points and 2.9 assists in his lone season at the University of Kentucky, for a future first-round pick in a proposed trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The trade had not yet been finalized by the NBA league office.
While Bledsoe offers insurance for Davis, Olshey couldn't be more complimentary of Aminu, who could start right away.
"I've seen him go both ways with the ball in his hand and make plays for other people; he's unselfish, he runs the wing like hurricane, he can finish in transition," Olshey said. "The questions about energy are a little bit ridiculous, because at the end of the day when you look at a guy who blocks shots and rebounds, those are two major energy, production stats and I think we've all learned that rebounding translates and this is a kid who outrebounded the power forwards in this draft.
"What we wanted was another finisher; someone that could finish the break. We've been one of the poorer rebounding teams in the league at the small forward position and we just drafted the leading rebounder in the ACC at the small forward position."
The Clippers, who won only 29 games last season, have plenty of room to improve and Aminu acknowledges he has work to do, too.
"I think I have to work on my size, also on my ball handling," Aminu said. "I think those are the two things I need to adjust right away."
One thing is for sure: The size of his glasses can't get much bigger.
"They're coming to L.A., what do you think?" Olshey said. "I'm pretty sure he's not the only guy who didn't shop at Brooks Brothers."
Added Aminu: "That's just me. I've been wearing them all weekend and my brother said, 'You should wear them and show people who you are.'"
Clippers fans hope he is all that Olshey says he can be.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers and Clippers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. ESPNLosAngeles.com reporter Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.