Who Is Ian Mahinmi?

The newest Pacer is someone with whom many Hoosiers many not be familiar. He has never put up high numbers and rarely been featured on Sportscenter. But he has been a solid rotation player for much of the past two years and did mop up some quality minutes in the NBA Finals when the Mavericks beat the Heat. He is also generally viewed positively by those who have played with and coached him, and he still has a lot of room to improve as a player, even though he will never break out into someone who really should ever be starting for a contender.

For more, I reached out to Rob Mahoney with some questions.

Mahoney literally wrote the book on the Dallas Mavericks’ 2011 NBA Title and probably has written the equivalent of 40 more books on the Mavs over at The Two-Man Game in the past few years. He is also among the top half dozen or so NBA writers on the planet and proves it day after day for The New York Times, Bleacher Report, and The Classical, among others. (Follow him on Twitter.)

Here is our Q&A on Ian Mahinmi. (Pronounced Yan MY-een-me, FYI.)

How would you describe Ian Mahinmi to someone who has never seen him play?

Rob Mahoney: Ian deciphers basketball as if it were a foreign language — fitting for a French national attempting to find his way through the most innately American game. He’s come a long way since his days as raw material for the San Antonio Spurs’ developmental complex, but that doesn’t mean the game comes naturally to him or that his athleticism makes anything simple. Mahinmi has some impressive physical tools, but he plays as if he’s solely the product of what he’s learned, with no instinctive basis to call his own.

That said, Mahinmi has put together a nice little repertoire over the years. He grew into a wonderful pick-and-roll finisher opposite Jason Terry. He worked on his mid-range touch and became relatively consistent in spotting up from about 15 feet. He honed a post move or two even if he hasn’t gotten much of a chance to work from the block. He’s a mobile defender, and active shot blocker, and a hard worker. Some elements of the game (bits of defensive judgment, box-out technique, etc.) just manage to escape him.

My general assessment may seem negative, but that’s hardly my intent. Mahinmi is just a student of the game — a term I use not to indicate that he’s a basketball junkie, but simply that his knowledge base (and his effectiveness) is still growing, as it has been over the last several seasons.

What did he contribute to the Mavs over the past two years?

Rob Mahoney: Mahinmi chipped in solid minutes as a reserve big for Dallas, first as a third center and more recently as a member of a triumvirate that split minutes at the position. His flaws are more apparent the longer he stays on the floor, but with regulated playing time, Mahinmi brings a nice infusion of energy, some decent catch-and-finish potential, and active defense. He doesn’t have any standout strengths, but legitimately does many things quite well.

Why did Dallas seemingly have such disinterest in bringing him back? Was it totally due to wanting to maintain cap flexibility and not commit anything to a role player? Were there other reasons?

Rob Mahoney: Mostly that; Brandan Wright’s emergence has made Mahinmi a bit expendable in Dallas, and that development compounded with the Mavs’ salary considerations made bringing back Mahinmi improbable at the least. My understanding is that Mahinmi was looking for a multi-year deal, and with Dallas unable to oblige and a few other teams interested (Indiana obviously included), a split was almost inevitable.

How do you see him fitting in behind Roy Hibbert and David West?

Rob Mahoney: Pretty well, though he’s hardly a cure-all. The rebounding deficit could prove to be a bit problematic, though Mahinmi is nevertheless a better overall fit than Tyler Hansbrough or Lou Amundson by way of his defense. Offensively, I’m not sure who couldn’t fit in with such versatile bigs; Hibbert and West are both so high-low flexible, and while Mahinmi doesn’t have some particular patch of real estate to call his own, he should do well in revolving around either Pacer big man.

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