Ian Mahinmi 2015-16 Player Review

Pacers center Ian Mahinmi reflects on his first season as a starter and shares his reflections on Indiana's season.

Ian Mahinmi 2015-16 Review Playlist

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Ian Mahinmi 2015-16 Player Review

Pacers center Ian Mahinmi reflects on his first season as a starter and shares his reflections on Indiana's season.
May 16, 2016  |  04:06

Ian Mahinmi 2015-16 Season Highlights

Check out these top plays by Pacers starting center Ian Mahinmi from the 2015-16 season.
May 16, 2016  |  02:10

Player Review 2016: Ian Mahinmi

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer

Age: 29
Years pro: 8
Status: Unrestricted free agent.
Key stats: Averaged 9.3 points and 7.1 rebounds, both career highs. Improved free throw percentage from .304 to .587.

Ian Mahinmi had one of the most, shall we say, interesting seasons a Pacers player has ever had, making the sort of dramatic improvement rarely if ever seen from a player in his eighth NBA season – ninth if you count the one he sat out with an injury.

The planets finally aligned for Mahinmi last summer when the trade that sent Roy Hibbert to the Lakers and the shift to a spread, uptempo offense made him a natural fit as the starting center. Buoyed by that opportunity and his work with George Hill over the summer, he came to training camp a more confident and attuned player.

"The work he put in was remarkable, how dedicated he was this summer," said George Hill, his workout partner in San Antonio for much of the summer.

The result: Mahinmi started all 71 games in which he played after starting just 21 in his previous seasons, and lifted his scoring average from 4.3 to 9.3 and his rebounding average from 5.8 to 7.1. Playing time had a lot to do with it, as he averaged about 12 more minutes per game, but his percentages improved as well. His field goal percentage jumped from .552 to .589 and his free throw percentage from the infamous career-low .304 to .587.

GALLERY: Ian Mahinmi's Season in Photos »

He also brought a defensive upgrade over Hibbert. Although not the shot-blocker Hibbert had been, Mahinmi was a far better defender away from the basket, particularly in pick-and-rolls where he had the quickness and agility to jump out and cut off the ballhandler and then get back to his man.

His intangibles were strong, too. Hibbert, had grown mopey and withdrawn in his latter years with the Pacers. Mahinmi brought an upbeat maturity and team-first spirit that had impact beyond his stats, because he didn't worry much about his stats. He was the perfect fit for the early-season spread offense because he didn't care how many shots he got – 6.3 per game, it turned out, eighth-most on the team. He also adjusted nicely when Myles Turner became a starter and the offense went back to a more traditional lineup. With the "two-bigs" starting lineup, he averaged 10.4 points and 7.1 rebounds.

All in all, he was quite the feel-good story, second only on the Pacers' roster to Paul George's comeback from a broken leg.

"Nobody cares more than Ian, about his individual performance and helping the team," Frank Vogel said before the season began. "He puts a lot of pressure on himself to carry his own weight. His work ethic reflects that."

It paid off, finally.

Mahinmi's best regular season moment came at Oklahoma City after the All-Star break, when he contributed 19 points and 11 rebounds to an upset victory. He scored 18-19-18 in successive games in April when the Pacers were trying to lock up a playoff spot, and had 16 and 14 in his final two regular season games.

He was all over the map in the playoff series with Toronto, which he played with a sore back. His point totals: 1-5-7-22-4-12-6. His 22-point, 10-rebound and 5-assist gem helped save Game 4, when the Pacers evened the series at 2-2, although all of his field goals came on dunks or layups.

That's Mahinmi in a nutshell. He's a great supporting cast member who lacks the scoring weapons and bulk to be a star center, but capable of stepping up. It's difficult to believe the Pacers wouldn't like for him to come back with a new contract, but he's not the only free agent center on the market and he'll have value to other teams as well.

He proved he's more than a snazzy dresser with a cool French accent. He also can be a key contributor to a winning team. His best season yet couldn't have come at a better time for him.

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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