The Wizards' first (non-incumbent) signing of the 2016 offseason was center Ian Mahinmi on a four year, $64 million dollar contract. Mahinmi turns 30 this November, but despite being an eight-year veteran, he doesn't have too many NBA miles under his belt. He's played NBA minutes than Bradley Beal. His last year with Indiana was his first as a full-time starter, where he anchored their defense and gave them a threat in the pick and roll. He was 14th in the league in points per possession as the roll man (minimum 100 possessions; Marcin Gortat was sixth).
While it's legitimate to question the amount of money the Wizards chose to spend on big men this year, making Mahinmi the second-highest player on the team demonstrates their commitment to becoming a great defensive team again. He also fits nicely in the second unit with Andrew Nicholson, Trey Burke, and Tomas Satoransky, and could easily step into a starting role if Gortat gets hurt.
To get a better sense of what we can expect from Mahinmi this year, decided to chat with Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows, SBNation's Indiana Pacers site.
What were the major strengths and weaknesses of Mahinmi's game while he was in Indiana? How did he develop as a player over his four years there?
T.L: Ian Mahinmi continually increased his role and impact on the Pacers throughout his time in Indy. Ian is long and quick for his size and with the Pacers emphasis on defense, he developed into a strong rim protector. This, combined with his ability to run the floor, makes him a solid big man to include in a smaller lineup intent on spreading the floor.
More on Mahinmi's interior defense
More on Mahinmi's interior defense
As for weaknesses, his hands in traffic have been a problem although with the additional playing time in a starting role last season, that annoyance really improved. Last season, Ian struggled at the free throw line, despite a decent shot and much success in practice. He was purposely hacked at times to force the faulty free throws which eventually helped him work through the issue, although he can still be a liability at the line.
The Pacers spent a lot of time playing small last season. How was Mahinmi as the anchor in small lineups? Do you think playing in small lineups contributed to his breakout year?
T.L: I think the Pacers' effort to speed up play and spread the floor last season made Ian more effective. On offense, he can drive past a lot of bigs from the high post if the lane is open and is a willing and capable passer when not trying to finish. On defense, he's quick enough to rotate and alter shots at the rim as a nice last line of defense with a smaller lineup on the floor. There's no doubt the Pacers wanted to bring Ian back had they been able to.
Mahinmi had the best season of his career last year, at 29 years old. It's fairly unusual for players to make a leap that late. The Wizards have him signed for the next four years, basically paying him a starter's salary. How do you think his game will age?
T.L: As long as Ian can stay healthy, I wouldn't have any concerns about his game changing much due to age. He's a smart player, well aware of what he needs to do to be effective and flying in to finish a John Wall lob once in awhile should keep him feeling young.
As for injury concerns, Ian had a bit of a nagging lower back injury, described everywhere from sore to strained. He missed four games starting in late January but then had a flare up late in the season. Despite the discomfort, Ian continued to play through the pain in the playoffs and showed little concern, responding that he just needed a solid stretch of rest to heal up.
Anything else Wizards fans should know, or look out for?
T.L: Ian has a great personality which should endear him to local fans and media alike. He's also quite the fashionista and even has his own line of clothes.
Follow Tom on Twitter @IndyCornrows.
Mahinmi's skillset is somewhat redundant with Gortat, but it's hard to be upset about 48 minutes of rim protection and pick and roll scoring. Nene's second unit playmaking will be missed, but Mahinmi is a better rim protector and rebounder, and his effective field goal percentage is only slightly lower than the Big Brazillian's. And his defensive versatility will likely have him closing games. Missing out on Al Horford and the other max-level free agents hurts, but Mahinmi (along with Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith) give the Wizards the deepest post rotation they've had in years. And by all accounts, he is a hard worker with a great attitude, who will help Scott Brooks' create a culture where everybody plays hard every night.