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Mahinmi strengthens Wizards' rim-protecting depth

July 7, 2016

Five Fast Facts

-       Born in Rouen, France
-       Played soccer first while growing up in France
-       Played professionally in France from 2003-07
-       Drafted Round 1, 28 th overall in 2005 by Spurs
-       Was part of 2011 NBA Championship team with San Antonio 

The Wizards entered this offseason looking to build around a small existing core, and they’ve done it with calculated signings this summer. When basketball begins again in the fall, big man Ian Mahinmi may have one of the largest impacts of this summer’s free agency class. Moreover, the addition of the Frenchman gives a peek into the style new head coach Scott Brooks is looking for. 

In the signing of Mahinmi, Washington showed a clear focus on defense for the upcoming campaign. The 29-year-old’s 6-11 frame and good athleticism will certainly add depth to the Wizards’ frontcourt in more ways than just defense, but his impact around the basket will be his biggest asset whether he ends up in a starting role or coming off the bench. During his tenure with the Pacers, Mahinmi proved that he’s capable of being effective in both capacities.

Last season, Mahinmi played the most minutes of his career and started for the Pacers in each of his 71 appearances. With interior defense being his calling card, perhaps the most important metric that came with a fairly dramatic uptick in playing time was that his key defensive metrics stayed relatively true to form. As a defender in 2015-16, the majority of Mahinmi’s work (45.8%) came within 6 feet or closer to the rim. On those shots, he still maintained a -4.4% field goal percentage differential* in his first full season as a starter, down a hair from the -5.9% mark he posted with Indiana in 2014-15.

Of course, Mahinmi’s increased workload also led to career-high per-game averages across the board in points (9.3), rebounds (7.1) and blocks (1.1). Assuming he gets similar playing time in Washington, those numbers – particularly in the scoring column – could very well continue to be on their way up with All-Star point guard John Wall as his new teammate. As we know, Wall is just as good at finding opportunities for others at the rim as he is scoring there himself. With Mahinmi’s combination of size and athleticism, his ability to roll to the basket and finish above the rim will complement the Wizards’ floor general’s strength as a passer.

The final piece of the puzzle for any big man is the ability to rebound. While Mahinmi’s 7.1 rebounds per game last season may seem like a modest amount compared to the NBA’s elite rebounders, it’s important to note that he only averaged 25 minutes per game on the season. In the 16 games that he played more than 31 minutes, Mahinmi averaged 8.7 rebounds per contest. Considering that 2015-16 marked the first time he has ever played more than 19 minutes per game for an entire season, there’s certainly still room to improve for the big man in his ninth NBA campaign.

Regardless of starting position, Mahinmi figures to bring a new look to the Wizards’ frontcourt in 2015-16 with an above-the-rim presence on both sides of the floor. Between him and Marcin Gortat, Washington should feel comfortable about who’s manning the middle and their ability to provide multiple looks to opponents in the paint. With point guard John Wall still leading the way with his uncanny ability to facilitate, look for consistency down low from the Wizards in 2016-17.

* Field goal percentage differential measures the difference between shooters’ normal field goal percentage from a given range compared to shooters’ field goal percentage when defended by a certain player

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July 23, 2016
Ian's NBA championship in 2011 was with the Dallas Mavericks, not San Antonio.