The Washington Wizards lost out on Al Horford in the summer of 2016, and quickly moved to sign Pacers big man Ian Mahinmi to a 4-year, $64 million contract. The defensive minded center seems to duplicate some services alongside Marcin Gortat, but his addition to the roster could help bolster a lacking defensive effort from the Wizards in 2015-16.
Washington ranked 14th in defensive rating last season, and was in the lower half of the league when it came to important stats like blocks per-game, post defense, opponent roll man scoring, and opponent field goal percentage inside of five feet.
Mahinmi had career highs as the starter for the Indiana Pacers in 2015-16, and his real value comes on defense. Let's take a look at three important defensive categories and how Mahinmi will help the Wizards next season.
Pick and roll
Mahinmi is an athletic defender who plays quickly and smoothly. He's rotationally sound, which should help the Wizards on pick and roll situations set up to get 3-pointers -- an area Washington struggled with in 2016.
In this situation against the Raptors, Mahinmi is at the left elbow on ICE coverage. On the ball handler's first dribble, Mahinmi plants and quickly takes two shuffles back.
This forces Toronto to move into a second action, and Mahinmi eventually ends up with a block on the play.
Mahinmi forced opponents into 0.80 points per-play as a post defender in Indiana last season, better than both Gortat and Nene. Perhaps more importantly, at 250 pounds, one of the things former Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he loved about Mahinmi was his ability to create leverage quickly.
In this play against the Bulls, by the time the ball is at the opposite elbow, Mahinmi is already engaged with Pau Gasol. As the ball swings and Gasol pivots, Mahinmi stays with his hip into his opponent's tailbone, pushing him out of the paint.
When Gasol resets for the inlet pass, Mahinmi pushes him out of the paint entirely. He's then able to stay low and defend against Pau's quick back shoulder spin.
Mahinmi isn't a better shot blocker than Gortat, but he is at least as statistically productive.
This play against Cleveland is a good example of him stringing together all the skills we've been talking about that Wizards fans should be excited for.
It starts with Mahinmi on the free throw line as Cleveland runs a weave action out of transition. As Richard Jefferson pushes to the paint off a flare screen, Mahinmi doesn't jump the gun and leave Timofey Mozgov wide open.
Watching Mahinmi on film, you get the sense he's really grown and the speed of the game for him makes a lot of sense. That's super important as a defender.
Mahinmi's presence actually stops a shot from Jefferson down low. The ball is swung a couple of times and when the eventual shot does go up, Mahinmi gains leverage and pins Mozgov under the basket. He's then able to contest a wild shot while still standing, leading to a change of possession.
But this year's free agency class was top heavy, and when Al Horford came off the market, Washington did try to shore up their defensive issues down low. Trying to replicate a starting unit defensive presence in the post will be a huge upgrade over what the Wizards brought off the bench last season.
There might now be a bit of a logjam in the frontcourt for Washington, but that's the kind of problem you'd rather solve than the situation they were in during 2015-16.
Mahinmi should be an effective defender for the Wizards, despite the price.
Dane Carbaugh is a video analyst for SB Nation, Hardwood Paroxysm, and Blazer's Edge. He hosts the YouTube channel The Rewind which can be found by clicking here. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.