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The Wizards need a bounceback from Ian Mahinmi after disappointing season

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This is the latest in our series of player evaluations for each Wizard from the 2016-17 season. In our most recent installment, we reviewed Daniel Ochefu.

Season in Review by Kevin Haswell

The Washington Wizards surprised a lot of people this season, finishing with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. That was thanks to strong play from a few Wizards players, but there were some underachievers as well.

Ian Mahinmi came over to the Wizards on a four-year, $64 million deal last summer and did not do much to show he was worth the big money this season. He only played in 31 contests, averaging only 17.9 minutes per game. He averaged just 5.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game on 58.6 percent shooting.

His injuries didn’t stop during the playoffs, Mahimni missed every game during the first round against the Atlanta Hawks. He also missed the first two games of the second round against the Celtics. Throughout the regular season and the playoffs, he couldn’t stay healthy long enough to build chemistry with other players and have a consistent impact.

The inconsistency on the court led to Mahinmi only playing 12.6 minutes per game during the playoffs. He only appeared in five of the Wizards’ 13 playoff games. In the five he played, he only made multiple field goals in one game.

Much like Kelly Oubre, Mahinmi’s defensive ability was often undercut by his fouling. He averaged 5.8 fouls per 36 minutes during the regular season and 9.7 per 36 in the playoffs. He committed at least two fouls in every playoff appearance this season, even though he never played more than 15 minutes in any of those games.

The Wizards will need a better return in their investment in Ian Mahinmi to take another step forward in 2018. As Marcin Gortat transitions to the next phase of his career, the backup center will be a big factor in the success of the Wizards next season. Staying healthy needs to be the priority for Washington to have any chance to make an improvement.

Behind the numbers by Kevin Broom

Mahinmi was an iffy signing even before he missed most of the season with injuries. He was good in 2015-16 (PPA: 148), but there was ample reason to be dubious. It was the first above average season of his career. In a contract year. At age 30. After three full seasons – 3,716 minutes – of replacement level performance.

His combination of age and record of performance suggested caution was warranted, either in the form of lower salary or a shorter contract. The Wizards awarded him a four-year deal worth $64 million. At least they negotiated declining salaries in the last two years of the contract.

When he could get on the floor this season, Mahinmi wasn’t bad. Most of his stats were within career norms, albeit with a fluke-high number of steals. As mentioned above, Mahinmi’s excessive fouling – 8.0 fouls per 100 team possessions – undermined his potential defensive impact. I wanted to charge the high foul rate to his injuries, but it was almost identical to his career rate.

Basketball-Reference as 66 players identified as C with at least 500 minutes this season. Here’s where Mahinmi ranks in key stat categories (per 100 team possessions):

  • MPG: 48
  • Offensive rating (individual points produced per 100 team possessions):
  • Usage: 56
  • eFG%: 16
  • 2FG%: 17
  • FT%: 55
  • FTA: 21
  • REB: 45
  • AST: 55
  • STL: 2
  • BLK: 29
  • TOV: 45
  • PF: 62
  • PTS: 56
  • PPA: 57

Here’s Mahinmi’s performance EKG reflects initial struggles as he returned from injury, which was followed by some at least decent play for a couple weeks in March. Reminder: in PPA, 100 is average, higher is better and replacement level is 45.

Final Thoughts by Jake Whitacre

It’s early, but it’s probably safe to assume Mahinmi will be something of a sunk cost. He’ll probably do better than he did this season, assuming he can stay healthier, but it’s hard to see a way he can live up to his paycheck.

But unlike Andrew NIcholson’s sunk cost deal, it won’t be easy for the Wizards to get rid of this problem, at least not in the immediate future. Washington doesn’t have enough sweeteners to package with a contract this big to make it worthwhile for another team.

Barring a miracle, the Wizards will be stuck with Mahinmi for some time. The key then is to make sure Washington doesn’t try to chase good money after bad to justify Mahinmi’s big deal or try to cover it up.

It’s a bad deal, but it doesn’t have to be as bad as it was this season. Pairing him with Jason Smith off the bench worked better than most would have expected during the regular season. Together, they posted a +10.7 rating in 253 minutes of regular season action. If that can hold up next season, it means the bench is producing and they’re getting solid returns from their two highest-paid bench players.

That alone won’t be enough to justify Mahinmi’s big deal, but it makes things a lot easier to swallow, which is all you can really ask for at this point.