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Film study: A look at what Ian Mahinmi can add to Wizards' maligned 2nd unit

Film study: A look at what Ian Mahinmi can add to Wizards' maligned 2nd unit

In only 14 minutes in his first action of the season, and first as a member of the Wizards, Ian Mahinmi had just one point on one shot attempt, one rebound and three fouls.

He's a high-priced backup to Marcin Gortat at center but there are ways he can bolster the second unit -- and starters, for that matter -- as a rim protector and help defender.

This is a very small sample size, and none of this would appear in a boxscore: 

Mahinmi stunts here to assist John Wall in keeping Tony Parker from the rim. This forces Parker to give up the ball rather than attempting the finish, and Mahinmi anticipates his read perfectly. He's also able to sprint to the corner and contest his man, Pau Gasol, on his three-point look that misfires. Help defense and the added effort to cover his own man.

David Lee got out to a hot start and even made a basket driving by Mahinmi when he first came on the floor. But once Mahinmi settled, Lee wasn't as effective. This is an example of good position defense. Mahinmi moves his feet as he defends Lee away from the rim.  Lee couldn't create any separation to get his shot off over length as Mahinmi absorbed the contact without sacrificing positioning. 

This is a legal, by-the-book screen on Kyle Anderson, which considering how liberally officials allow screening today is saying something. Anderson is chasing Otto Porter and slams into a stationary Mahinmi and is taken completely out of the play. 

Kawhi Leonard will hit this pull up on the screen-roll action with Lee, but never mind that. See how high Mahinmi shows to take away the initial look (and doesn't square his feet which would prevent him from cracking back) and never loses his roll man. By the time Leonard jumps, Mahinmi, who never lost connection, has pushed out Lee from the middle and then established superior low-post position for a potential rebound.

This is a minor detail but important one. As Leonard cuts through the lane with Satoransky trailing, if Mahinmi doesn't shift to his right, that's a low-post entry pass with a high percentage shot to follow given the strength advantage. But Mahinmi provides the equivalent of cover fire, allowing Satornaksy to recover and making the passer wait until Leonard comes all the way out to the wing (a lower percentage look) to receive the ball. The result is bad spacing. And despite this kind of help, Mahinmi never loses sight of Lee when he flashes. He's in solid position to recover to for a contest and it keeps the ball out of the middle.

Is Mahinmi going to score 20 points per game? No. Will he overtake Gortat as the starter? Who knows. Gortat is a better offensive option. But these are the reasons why president Ernie Grunfeld was set on siging Mahinmi to a $62 million deal this summer. While this is a major plus, the issue of bench scoring remains a glaring weakness that has yet to be solved 15 games into the regular season.

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Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

Dwight Howard opts into second year of contract with Wizards

The Wizards are set to have Dwight Howard back for a second year, as the veteran center informed the team of his plans to exercise the $5.6 million player option in his contract for the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed.

Howard, 33, indicated to Wizards brass in his exit meeting last week he was likely to opt in to the second and final year of his deal, but there was some thought he would wait until closer to the June 29 deadline. The reason why is Howard's continued recovery from the back surgery he had in November, a procedure that kept him sidelined for the final five months of the season.

But Howard has now made his intentions known, giving the Wizards a clearer picture of their offseason. With him in the mix, they essentially have five players under contract next season. They technically have six, though Jabari Parker's $20 million team option is essentially a lock to not be picked up.

Howard appeared in only nine games in his first season with the Wizards. He missed all of training camp and their preseason schedule with back issues, played for just over two weeks in November and then went down for the year. He had the surgery, a lumbar microdiscotemy, on Nov. 30. 

Though his time on the floor was brief, he put up solid numbers with averages of 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. The Wizards missed his rebounding in particular, as they finished 27th in the league in the category and 28th in rebounds against.

Howard will certainly hope for a better showing in Year 2 with the Wizards, though there may be no guarantee he actually comes back. The Wizards are currently searching for a new general manager, and that person could choose to go in a different direction if ownership permits them to.

Keep in mind last summer Howard was traded soon after Mitch Kupchak took over the Hornets' front office and the Nets bought him out immediately after acquiring him. Howard's $5.6 million salary is relatively inexpensive, as Brooklyn paid $18.9 million to part ways.

Time will tell if Howard's career continues in Washington, but for now he is slated to come back next season for a second year with the Wizards.

ESPN's Zach Lowe first reported the news of Howard opting in.


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How John Wall's injury affects the Wizards' many decisions this summer

How John Wall's injury affects the Wizards' many decisions this summer

With the 2018-19 season in the rearview for the Washington Wizards, we at NBC Sports Washington are analyzing the five biggest questions of what should be the most consequential offseason they have had in years...


Though there are several events this summer that could ultimately define the Wizards' offseason, one storyline will hang over everything and factor into just about every decision made by the front office and whomever ends up leading it as the team's new general manager. That is the future of John Wall, who is set to miss at least most of next season due to a ruptured left Achilles, in what will be the first year of his supermax contract.

Wall had surgery on Feb. 12. Even if he returns one year after going under the knife, he will still miss roughly 50 games next season. When he does come back, there are no guarantees he will be the same player. He turns 29 in September and a ruptured Achilles is a very serious injury, especially for a guy whose game has traditionally been reliant on speed.

The Wizards, of course, hope Wall will regain his peak form, but even if that happens it is unlikely to be the case right away. It may not be until the 2020-21 season until the Wizards get a true read on Wall post-surgery and how much value he can provide while making the money he is due. 

Speaking of the money, Wall will still take up a considerable chunk of the salary cap despite not playing. He is set to earn 35 percent of the cap next season, which right now is projected at about $37.8 million. Though that could technically fluctuate based on the final cap number, the percentage is what matters. The Wizards will basically have to build a roster with only 65 percent of the cap at their disposal.

There is an argument that Wall's injury is one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. Supermax contracts, ones that allow players to make a contract that begins at 35 percent of the salary cap, are a new concept. And no one else has suffered such a serious injury while getting paid that type of money. 

It may not be quite what the Brooklyn Nets overcame in the fallout of their infamous trade with the Boston Celtics, the one that resulted in a net loss of three first round picks. But it's a bad situation, one that will require some creativity from whomever is tasked with pulling the Wizards out of it.

The long-term ramifications will depend on how Wall plays when he returns, but the short-term effect will clearly be felt. First, the Wizards have to have an insurance policy at point guard and a good one if they hope to compete for the playoffs. Maybe that is as simple as re-signing Tomas Satoransky, but regardless they have to shore up that position, knowing Wall's status.

Second, the Wizards need to find bargains to fill out the rest of their roster. They will have to find some cheap players simply to reach the 13-player minimum with Bradley Beal's max deal also on the books. Beal will earn roughly $27.1 million next season.

The biggest question as it pertains to Wall may deal with the NBA Draft on June 20. What if the Wizards get some luck in the May 14 draft lottery, but not enough to get the No. 1 pick (i.e. Zion Williamson), and Ja Morant is the best player on the board? Morant, of course, is the Murray State superstar who lit up the NCAA Tournament in March.

Morant is dynamic and has serious star potential, and he plays point guard. Wall was already asked about the potential of the Wizards drafting a point guard with a high pick. He said he would be fine with it, but that when he returns that draft pick can "be a great back-up" to him.

If the Wizards picked Morant, or even Coby White of North Carolina, it would arguably be the smart move to make. They need to select the best player available, no matter the position. 

But if they do take a point guard, that will present a unique dynamic to their locker room, especially if that player turns into a star. What if Morant comes in and lights it up as a rookie? How will Wall deal with that? And could you then put Morant on the bench when Wall returns, as Wall suggests they would?

Those are hypothetical scenarios that can be addressed if they actually enter the equation this summer and beyond. But there is no question that, even as Wall is sidelined with an injury, his presence will loom over the Wizards in many ways.