Player Preview: Ian Mahinmi, Imitating Dominance

May 13, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Wizards forward Martell Webster (3) lays the ball in against Indiana Pacers center Ian Mahinmi (28) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Wizards forward Martell Webster (3) lays the ball in against Indiana Pacers center Ian Mahinmi (28) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Saturday Night Live is rarely excellent anymore. They will occasionally break out some original comedy (like Stefan), but even dating back to the Tina Fey days, the best bits were usually imitations. Her turn as Sarah Palin had the world caring about SNL for the first time in awhile. And, look, Fred Armisen brought it as both President Barack Obama and former New York Governor David Patterson.

Of all the modern era impressions, however, Jay Pharaoh has performed my favorite. SNL seemed to know its new bread-and-butter when the brought in the specialist, and his Denzel Washinton impression floored me the first time I heard it.

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Good impressions are revealing in how they use exaggerations that can make you re-see the original subject. Before Armisen, I had never mentally registered that Obama starts so many sentences with “Look …” and before Pharoahe nailed Denzel, I hadn’t totally put it together that Denzel had been asking questions then answering them while laughing for years. Thank you for that, Jay. My man.

That’s what Ian Mahinmi has done for the Indiana Pacers.

He does a great impression of Roy Hibbert’s defensive style. And he is an astoundingly faithful understudy, using verticality and rim protection to mimic Hibbert and get the same great results. Last year, from the All-Star break on, Mahinmi actually did an even better job at the cup, allowing opponents to shoot a measly 50.2% in the restricted area while he was on the court compared to 51.0% when Hibbert was in the game.

Yes, Ian Mahinmi was usually on the court when the opposition’s reserves were, so Hibbert’s stingy percentage is still more impressive, but Mahinmi was essentially being Roy Hibbert.

It may be that no backup in the entire league is as good at imitating the guy in front of him. That is what Ian does, and that is what he will do this year.

In that sense, Mahinmi’s role is one of the few things on this Indiana Pacers team that isn’t a question mark. We can just pencil in his contribution: Roy Hibbert impersonator.

Does that make him good?

Is Jay Pharoah funny?

The answers don’t really matter. All that matters is that we know what we will get from them and that they will do that job well.

Ian Mahinmi. My man.

– Jared Wade (follow @8pts9secs)

Relevant GIF

Ian Mahinmi
Ian Mahinmi /

If you plan to follow the 2014-15 Indiana Pacers, you’ll need a sense of humor. Laugh so you don’t cry. And what’s funnier than Archer? Nothing. Nothing is the answer.

Key 2013-14 Stats

  • 10.2 player efficiency rating (PER)
  • 3.5 points per game
  • 3.3 rebounds per game
  • 16 minutes per game
  • 48.1% eFG%
  • 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes

One Key Question

Can Ian Mahinmi provide anything on offense?

The Situation: The Pacers rim protection barely fell off last year when Ian Mahinmi subbed in for Roy Hibbert, and Mahinmi is much more capable of staying with quicker players. He’s big enough to guard any centers  and is athletically gifted. However, when he’s not dunking it, Mahinmi seems to have little idea what to do with the ball; the highlight reel you could build of him dropping passes in the lane would be lengthy. He attempted 66% of his shots from within 3 feet of the rim last year, yet still shot just 48%.

Best-case Scenario: Mahinmi spent the offseason (when not dealing with his shoulder injury) having someone in his life pass him a basketball all day, every day. Through this, he learned how to catch the ball and will now be able to unleash an extra 1-2 vicious dunks per game.

Worst-case Scenario: His airball on a free-throw attempt was a sign of things to come, and we wind up with French Andris Biedrins; afraid to touch the ball for fear he’ll get fouled, unable to contribute in any meaningful way on offense outside of screens and the occasional offensive rebound.

Prediction: Neither best nor worst-case. Mahinmi continues to be the same player he’s always been; an outstanding defender, and mostly a net-zero on offense. He’ll have a couple of thundering dunks, miss a few free throws in an embarrassing fashion, and make you sigh and shake your head every time he drops a pass that would’ve led to an easy dunk.

– William Furr (follow @Will_Furr)

How He Scores

Ian Mahinmi
Ian Mahinmi /

The above spiderweb chart shows, via Synergy Sports, what types of possessions lead to his points in 2013-14. (created by Tim Donahue, follow



About 38% of Ian Mahinmi’s points last year came via a “cut.” By this, the chart mainly means “those times when defenders forgot Ian existed and someone, usually Lance Stephenson, passed him the ball for a wide-open dunk.” That percentage likely would have been higher if Ian didn’t drop, unofficially, about half the balls thrown his way in such situations. He also sets screens and gets some offensive boards on occasion.

Ian Mahinmi
Ian Mahinmi /

His 2013-14 shot chart, via Nylon Calculus

This has to be the saddest shot chart in all of the league, right down to the mouthless, hitchhiking snowman on the right baseline. Is there anywhere that Ian Mahinmi is a threat? No. There is not.

Sweatin’ Bullets

sweatin bullets
sweatin bullets /

Sweatin’ Bullets is an 8p9s tradition started by Jonny Auping in which we offer standalone facts, observations, and commentary, often devoid of context or fairness.

  • Ian Mahinmi had a bummer of a summer, getting hurt early during the French national team’s unexpected run during the FIBA World Cup. Though some have suggested that his injury actually helped France get further. As useful as Ian can be as a Roy Hibbert clone, his role in the more-skill-dependent international game is more limited.
  • Smothered Chicken.
  • There is almost nothing to analyze regarding Ian Mahinmi

Further Reading