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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