Ian Mahinmi’s Role in Indiana Pacers the Pick and Roll

Ian Mahinmi was a question mark for the Indiana Pacers coming into the year, but he’s having a solid season, in part, thanks to the pick and roll.

Ian Mahinmi had been a backup center since 2007, averaging no more that 5.8 points or rebounds per game at any point in his career. It was understandable that the Indiana Pacers fan base was concerned whether he was ready to be a starting center for 82 games.

However, he’s proven himself to be a serviceable starting center averaging 8.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. He wisely is only taking 8.6 shots a game, but he’s making them count with a shooting percentage of 59.6%.

One of the ways he scores his points is on the pick and roll, something he’s done particularly well when paired with Monta Ellis. It has made up about 28.2% of his game, according to NBA.com, and works both because he’s stepped up his game and because he is playing with a group of guards that demand respect from opposing defenses.

His dunk against the Houston Rockets may not be the perfect example of the pick and roll, but the concepts are there, as Dwight Howard gets caught helping Monta, who very adeptly threw the ball forward to Mahinmi for an easy dunk.

Mahinmi has proved to be a skilled roll man on the Indiana Pacers’ pick and roll. In fact, once you filter out players with less than 50 attempts, you see he ranks in the 91st percentile, meaning he’s better that all but the league’s elite. When Indiana uses Mahinmi on the pick and roll, the teams scored 1.25 points per a possession — which ranks fourth in the league.

Ellis and George Hill have made things either for Mahinmi. We’ve seen again and again how Monta is comfortable coming off the screens and forcing help when a guard gets caught on a Mahinmi screen. After looking so clumsy at times last season, Mahinmi has been skilled in gathering the ball for an easy layup or dunk.

In this play against Minnesota in December, Rubio gets caught behind George Hill on the Mahinmi pick. Then after Karl-Anthony Towns tries to help Mahinmi gets an easy two points cutting to the basket. It also helps when C.J. Miles is knocking down his shots, as you see Kevin Garnett can’t fully commit to coming over to help despite seeing Mahinmi breaking free.

George Hill and Ian Mahinmi execute a pick and roll play against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

However, it also needs to be pointed out that Mahinmi’s 61 pick-and-roll possessions, via NBA.com, rank him 46th, and the league’s top players. Chris Bosh, Serge Ibaka, and Anthony Davis, to name a few, have over double — some almost triple — the number of attempts he has. So while he’s effective in the PnR, the Pacers aren’t exactly feeding him the ball either.

That is understandable, because while Mahinmi has improved, his 59% field goal percentage comes from the fact nearly 70% of his shots come from the restricted area, and he’s only taking he’s only taking 6 shots a game. He takes the shots he knows he can make: He’s a 69% shooter in the RA, but only 33.3% from everywhere else, including the non-RA part of the paint.

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The Indiana Pacers offense currently ranks 16th in the league, which is an improvement over the past few seasons, including the two Eastern Conference Finals teams. There are plenty of things the Indiana Pacers could improve on, but the fact Ian Mahinmi hasn’t been a drag on the Pacers offense was a pleasant surprise for the Pacers. In fact his 101.8 offensive rating in the highest he’s had as an Indiana Pacer.

Ian Mahinmi has stepped up into his role and the Indiana Pacers center and the pick and roll has been a big weapon in his limited arsenal.