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Now healthy, Ian Mahinmi still struggling to provide value for Wizards

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington announced Tuesday afternoon that they will not pick up the fourth year option on Chris McCullough’s rookie deal. The move means only two of the ten players Washington acquired during the summer of 2016 or during the following season are guaranteed to be under contract in Washington for 2018-19. Yet, for all the misses Washington made on players last year, the biggest whiff may still be on the roster: Ian Mahinmi.

After an injury-plagued first season with Washington, this was supposed to be the year he would get his feet back under him and maybe, just maybe, challenge an aging Marcin Gortat for the starting center position. Unfortunately he’s struggled out of the gate to start the 2017-2018 campaign.

Mahinmi was supposed to be the defensive anchor for the second unit, but he’s been anything but so far. The seven-footer has only turned away just three shots so far in 94 minutes of action this season. What’s also troubling is that he’s become a foul machine, averaging 7.3 personal fouls per 36 minutes. And although the sample size is minuscule, the Wizards’ defensive rating jumps from 100.5 to 109.8 when he’s on the floor, even though he’s mostly playing against reserves.

Not only has he failed to become the defensive anchor Washington hoped he would be, but his offensive game isn’t helping either. Since he gets next to no offensive plays run for him, it’s almost as if he feels that he has to shoot every time he touches the ball because there is no guarantee that he’ll see the ball again. Often this ends with Mahinmi trying to score out of the post; which hasn’t gone well this season.

On the season, he’s just 11-23 from the field (47.8 percent), he’s only attempted 6 free throws, and has more turnovers (7) than assists (5).

With Markieff Morris set to return soon, things could get more challenging for Mahinmi. Scott Brooks recently said that Morris will get some run at the center position when he returns, which will likely cut into Mahinmi’s minutes. That, coupled with Jason Smith being freer to play more at the 5 with Morris back, could put a serious squeeze on Mahinmi’s playing time.

On paper, his numbers don’t look terrible, however you have to squint really hard to find a defensive stat that bodes in the big man’s favor. That’s not good for a guy who was brought specifically for his defensive prowess. As traditional centers like Mahinmi disappear from the NBA with each passing day, the Wizards’ front office could be facing a difficult decision with what to do about their fourth-highest paid player sooner rather than later.