Looking Ahead: 4 Centers the Clippers Can Target in 2016

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Ian Mahinmi (Indiana Pacers)

Mar 12, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Ian Mahinmi (28) gestures before the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With Larry Bird eager to mmove closer to a future where speed is an emphasis for his Indiana Pacers, Mahinmi is stuck between an interesting past and hurried future for the franchise — with Roy Hibbert being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, Mahinmi stands as the fill-in center until 2015 lottery pick Myles Turner grows into his own, whenever that will be.

Like Jordan, there’ll never be a dependence on Mahinmi in Los Angeles (or any other city for that matter) to win a game on the offensive end. Surrounding by the right collection of players (in LAC he would be), what Mahinmi will be tasked with is simple and along the lines of roles he’s played in the past: rebounding, defending, creating space.

Rebounding: last season, Mahinmi averaged 11.2 rebounds per-36 minutes, a personal best with the Indiana Pacers.

Defending: he’s no Roy Hibbert, but Mahinmi, averaging a career-high 18.8 minutes last season, graded well in several defensive measures:

  • of players who played in at least 200 minutes for the Indiana Pacers this past season, Mahinmi led the group in defensive rating (100), ranked 7th in Defensive Win Shares (2.0) and ranked 1st in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (2.6).
  • ranked 10th in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus (RPM) for a center (2.47), above the likes of Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Omer Asik, etc.
  • via SportVU, Mahinmi allowed opponents to shoot 45.5% at the rim on 5.4 attempts per game
  • via NBA Stats, the Indiana Pacers, in 1146 minutes, posted a defensive rating of 99.3 with Mahinmi on the floor; without Mahinmi, 101.5
  • via Nylon Calculus’ Estimated Rim Protection Value, Mahinmi ranked 14th in Points Saved Per-36 Minutes with 1.36 last season, above the likes of Tyson Chandler, Omer Asik, Kosta Koufos, and Tiago Splitter.
  • Again via NC’s Rim Protection Value, in 2013-14 Mahinmi ranked 3rd overall in Points Saved Per-36 Minutes with 2.40, below only Roy Hibbert (3.70) and Robin Lopez (2.40).

Creating space: an ineffective roll-man finisher (low usage — .76 PPP, 43.5 FG% on 23 attempts and impressive cut finisher (1.11 PPP, 63.4 FG% on on 71 attempts) via Synergy Sports, as long as Mahinmi remains mobile the French center could ditto Jordan’s diving ability in the half-court, which played a key role for outside shooters, while benefitting from the attention Griffin draws off the pick-and-roll. With the Clippers employing far better talents offensively in comparison to the Pacers, Mahinmi’s percentages could increase due to an increase in open shots.

What makes Mahinmi a more interesting free agent than the previous three is the range his 2016 contract could land at. If the Clippers reach the $30 million in freed cap space Wojnarowski spoke of, signing Mahinmi to an Omer Asik-esque deal (maybe less depending on league-wide perception of him) would leave the franchise with enough space to target the dynamic wing the franchise has been longing for — notable 2016 free agent wings include Danilo Gallinari, DeMar Derozan, Wilson Chandler, Harrison Barnes, Nicolas Batum, etc.

The prospect of adding Mahinmi + one of the above mentioned wings is enough to make him my favorite of the four centers listed as it pertains to the Clippers’ team dynamic going forward, even if he is the least talented of the bunch.

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