Bottoms Up

Posted by Rob Mahoney on July 12, 2010 under Commentary, News, Roster Moves | 4 Comments to Read

Third-string centers are a bit of a novelty and a luxury, and it’s generally hoped that they aren’t forced to become much more. They are stop-gaps and a safety nets, and an elevation in the responsibilities of the third C typically has less to do with rapid improvement or flawed appraisal than it does a far more disappointing reality at the top of the rotation. Having three players capable of playing the position is practically an NBA necessity, even if the third is only really present to fill in the gaps and prevent a complete disaster.

Ian Mahinmi will slide into that role comfortably for the Mavs next season, as Dallas has reportedly agreed to terms with Ian on a two-year deal for the veteran minimum. (Note: Mike Fisher of reported that Mahinmi will receive the full biannual exception, so it’s possible that Ian’s annual salary is closer to $1.9 million).

This is a fantastic move. Mahinmi had trouble earning playing time during his career in San Antonio, but he’s an energy big that can actually help the Mavs off the bench. During the 2007-2008 season, Ian posted a 23.0 PER for the D-League’s Austin Toros, and averaged 20.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes. Mahinmi is not really a physical beast, but he is long and athletic with pretty good instincts. This is exactly the kind of player the Mavs should be using to fill out the rotation, and with the full mid-level exception still intact (and likely the biannual exception as well) , the Mavs have almost their entire roster assembled. It’s obviously preferable that Mahinmi falls as the third center rather than Haywood’s backup, but one more reserve center aside, this team looks quite complete.

Creation on the wing is still a bit of a concern, but adding Mahinmi to an already talented roster is quite helpful. Ian is still, in many ways, more of a prospect than a player, but he does come in as a usable big with a better price tag and future than Eduardo Najera. Dallas could have shot for a big like Brad Miller or Matt Bonner (and reportedly, they did), but in Mahinmi the Mavs have acquired a piece that’s likely already a better NBA rebounder and shot blocker than either of those two vets. Even at 23, Ian is still growing into his game, and while he does have immediately usable skills, it’s conceivable that he’ll only get better and better during his time with the Mavs.

Here’s a tentative depth chart in light of the Mahinmi signing, assuming Rick Carlisle chooses to keep Butler and Marion as starters:

PG – Jason Kidd, Rodrigue Beaubois, J.J. Barea
SG – Caron Butler, Jason Terry, Rodrigue Beaubois, DeShawn Stevenson, Dominique Jones, Matt Carroll
SF – Shawn Marion, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson
PF – Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Ian Mahinmi, Eduardo Najera
C – Brendan Haywood, Ian Mahinmi, Eduardo Najera

TBD: Returns on Erick Dampier’s contract, the mid-level exception, and possibly the biannual exception

  • duaneofly

    I’m a Spurs fan and I’m sad to see Ian go without ever getting a chance in SA. I honestly think with some actual playing time (as opposed to just practice) he could develop into a good, backup center/energy guy.
    If he gets the minutes, I wouldn’t be surprised if halfway through next season, he is being mentioned as one of the best, “small / lesser” additions a team made this offseason.
    Congrats Mavs!

  • Kinzo

    and how far do you really expect that team to go? ANOTHER FIRST ROUND EXIT.

  • Cynthia

    Excuse me….when you say “that team” are you talking about the MAVS? Because if you are, then you must be a troll. Do us a favor and go back under whatever bridge you crawled out of.

  • Caleb

    I think the signing is good for the Mavs, but it looks like their offseason is really going to be about keeping intact the group that didn’t really have an opportunity to gel the last few months of the 09-10 season. This is smart, considering they achieved quite a bit in that small span of time, but unfortunately, I doubt it is enough to seriously compete in the West beyond a Western Conference Semifinals appearance. The problems are twofold: 1) The Lakers didn’t get worse, and 2) too many other teams got significantly better. The Spurs were able to give up Mahinmi because he became a useless piece for them with Splitter. Dallas just seems like a definite competitor for third in the West. OKC is developing even beyond last year’s surprise season, and they now have a young big man, too, in Cole Aldrich. Portland is healthy (although we’ve read this story before), and assuming they stay that way, I’d give them the edge to make the Conference Semis.