Ian Mahinmi

Wizards Notes: Sheppard, Centers, Wall, Draft

The Wizards will focus on improving their defense, especially on the interior, during the upcoming offseason, general manager Tommy Sheppard tells Fred Katz of The Athletic. Washington ranked last in the league in opponents’ points per possession, although the numbers were better over the last month of the season. They allowed teams to shoot 66% from the restricted area, which ranks third from the bottom.

“We’re gonna improve defensively, and a lot of that is by repetition and continuity,” Sheppard said. “We certainly look inside. Maybe we can get some more physicality there and get some more help out on the wings. There’s a lot of need that comes, but sometimes those needs get met by just staying patient (with your) players.”

Sheppard also talked about the need to find a rim protector, which the Wizards didn’t have with the center spot being manned by Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner, along with Ian Mahinmi, who is headed for free agency. Katz suggests Wagner could be effective as a power forward if the team can find a shot blocker for him to play alongside.

Although Washington will be over the salary cap when the offseason arrives, the team will have its full mid-level and biannual exceptions available, along with a lottery pick, to pursue a defensive-minded center.

There’s more Wizards news, all courtesy of Katz:

  • Sheppard is counting on some of the defensive improvement to come from the return of John Wall, who didn’t play at all this season while recovering from a torn Achilles. Washington was ineffective defensively with Isaiah Thomas at point guard before he was traded in February. “When you get John back, that guy was on the All-Defensive Team a few years ago,” Sheppard said. “John can contain the dribble, and that takes a lot of pressure off the defense, too.”
  • The Wizards, who occupy the ninth spot in our Reverse Standings, are planning a “best player available” strategy for the draft, Sheppard added. “You’re talking eight players 23 and younger (on the current roster),” he said. “Throw Jerome (Robinson) in that mix, this kinda gives us a little better opportunity to, ‘Hey, let’s look at the best player available.’ … It just gives you a little bit more options. You wanna draft for your need if it’s possible. But if it’s not possible, you don’t just grab somebody to grab them. You do, ‘Hey, is there somebody else that can add value to your roster?’ And maybe that person is very interesting to some other team — whatever. But I don’t think we can say today, ‘Hey, this is exactly who we need,’ because that player is just not gonna be in college or free agency.”
  • If the NBA season does resume, coach Scott Brooks cautioned that players will need adequate preparation time before games can begin. “NBA players, they can miss six or seven weeks with an injury and have three or four practices and all of a sudden come out and get you 19 points and nine rebounds,” Brooks said. “But I don’t know the answer. We definitely need some time. … I would imagine a week to 10 days is probably the best that we would get. And hopefully we get that.”

Wizards GM: John Wall Not Expected Back This Season

Although John Wall has left the door open for the possibility of a return to the court before the 2019/20 season ends, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard essentially closed that door this week, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays. Having mentioned that Bradley Beal‘s life will be easier when Wall returns “next year,” Sheppard was asked for a follow-up and explained that the team doesn’t expect its starting point guard back until next season.

“I think we have maintained that all along. We didn’t plan on seeing him this year,” Sheppard said. “I think that’s fair to John, to manage the expectations for him. He’s on his way, but he’s not there and he’s not close yet. He’s a lot closer than he was a year ago when the injury happened.”

Given the Wizards’ 17-32 record, it makes sense that the team will be cautious with their star point guard and give him a few extra months to get to 100%. When he spoke to Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington about visualizing his first game back, Wall talked as if he’s targeting opening night in 2020/21.

“I’ve gotta be honest with you, if our first game isn’t in D.C. then I probably won’t play,” Wall joked. “Just to be realistic. I’m going to try to force the NBA for my first game to be at home next season.”

Let’s round up a few more Wizards notes…

  • Sheppard said on Thursday that almost every playoff team in both conferences inquired on Davis Bertans, Hughes writes for NBC Sports Washington. The Wizards hung onto Bertans and will aim to re-sign him this summer. “There was never a doubt in my mind that we wanted to keep him,” Sheppard said. “But I promise you that the more you say you want to keep somebody, the more teams don’t want to believe you and they keep calling.”
  • Jerome Robinson hasn’t made major strides during his first two NBA seasons, but the Wizards liked him in the 2018 draft and are confident in a player development program that has had success with other young players like Moritz Wagner, says Fred Katz of The Athletic. Washington acquired Robinson from the Clippers in one of the team’s two deadline-day deals.
  • Within that same story, Katz passes along word that the Wizards haven’t discussed a possible buyout with center Ian Mahinmi, who is on an expiring contract. “We’re obviously always open to anything that makes us better. But I wouldn’t even go down that road right now,” Sheppard said of the possibility. “Ian has done a great job for us this year, and he’s been a great leader, great professional for us.”
  • Katz confirms (via Twitter) that the Wizards acquired Shabazz Napier‘s contract in their trade with Denver using their disabled player exception. Washington was the only team to use a DPE at the deadline.

Mavs Notes: Porzingis, Noah, Powell Replacements, Trade Options

Kristaps Porzingis could see a lot more action at center the remainder of the season, according to Eddie Sefko of the team’s website. The Mavericks need to replace the minutes of Dwight Powell, who is out for the season with a ruptured right Achilles. When paired with Maxi Kleber, Porzingis can play either center or power forward. Porzingis can utilize his playmaking skills from the middle, as he did for a stretch against the Clippers on Tuesday.

“We’ve done it some,” coach Rick Carlisle said while adding, “The bind you get in is with rebounding and that was obvious in the second half. We were really up against it on the boards. … But in terms of the lineup and everything else, there’s a lot of things we’ve got to keep on the table.”

We have more on the Mavericks:

  • The Mavs’ front office has made contact with free agent center Joakim Noah, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. However, the team has concerns about Noah’s health and is also looking at overseas and G League options, MacMahon adds. Noah, 34, appeared in 34 games with the Grizzlies last season. Dallas would have to open up a roster spot to bring in a free agent.
  • Washington’s Ian Mahinmi, Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng and Golden State’s Willie Cauley-Stein and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson are some of the trade options the team could pursue in the wake of Powell’s injury, Sefko writes in a separate piece.  Rookie Isaiah Roby and Justin Jackson could also pick up some of those minutes, Sefko adds, and the Mavs might pursue another G League option, Ray Spalding, of the Greensboro Swarm, who was on Dallas’ roster for part of last season.
  • Even before Powell’s injury, the team was perusing the trade market for players with size who can score 15 points a game, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (video link). “They have assets. They have a trade exception, they have Courtney Lee, who’s a contract that can be traded. Watch out for them,” Windhorst said.
  • The Mavs have two trade exceptions available to utilize prior to February’s deadline, including one worth over $11.8MM. Check out the list of all trade exceptions here.

Southeast Notes: Mahinmi, Aminu, Heat, Adams

Wizards big man Ian Mahinmi has played an important role in recent games, serving as the team’s last remaining traditional center as Thomas Bryant and other players nurse various injuries, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes.

Mahinmi, who missed all of training camp and the first 19 games of the season due to an Achilles’ injury, has made a noticeable impact on both ends of the floor this month — much to the delight of his teammates.

“He’s been great the first couple of games. Just his presence, his activeness, his long arms, his altering shots at the rim,” Bradley Beal said, as relayed by Buckner. “He’s catching on the roll; he’s finishing. So he’s doing a lot of things that we kind of missed a lot. We didn’t have that rim protector in a way. He’s blocking shots. He’s altering shots at the rim. He’s rebounding.”

Mahinmi, a veteran 6’11” center who spent time with the defensive-minded Pacers during several postseason runs from 2012-16, is capable of providing solid production off the bench when healthy.

“He’s definitely a factor,” coach Scott Brooks said of Mahinmi. “When he’s healthy, he protects the rim, and we’re a better defensive team when he’s out there. Hopefully we can keep his minutes up at a good number and keep playing well. He’s going to definitely help us.”

Mahinmi’s presence will be needed going forward with Bryant rehabbing from a stress reaction in his foot and Moritz Wagner dealing with a sore ankle. The Wizards have recorded just a 7-17 record through 24 contests, with upcoming games scheduled against the Pistons on Monday, Bulls on Wednesday, and Raptors on Friday.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Magic plan to treat Al-Farouq Aminu‘s torn meniscus without surgery, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Aminu averaged 4.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 18 contests before suffering the injury, with the 29-year-old in his first season on the team.
  • The Heat could wind up having a large presence at All-Star Weekend in February, Ira Winderman details for the Sun Sentinel. Winderman contends that both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo could make the All-Star team this season, with Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn (rookie challenge), Duncan Robinson (three-point contest), Derrick Jones Jr. (dunk contest) and Adebayo (skills competition) also being contenders for the festivities.
  • The Heat could consider making a run at Thunder center Steven Adams via trade if the right dominoes fall, though this path seems unlikely for the time being, Winderman writes in his latest mailbag. Adams has two seasons left on his contract (due $25.8MM in 2019-20 and $27.5MM in 2020-21), with his contract running out just in time for the Heat’s anticipated mega free-agent chase in the summer of 2021.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Huerter, Mahinmi

Coach James Borrego is losing patience with the Hornets‘ defense and he’s not afraid to shake things up, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer relays.

“You have to value your time on the floor. This isn’t a God-given right to step on the floor and just go through the motions,” Borrego said recently. “If you’re not doing your job, if you don’t have great effort, if you’re not engaged from Minute 1, then I need to make a change — bring someone in off the bench or make a lineup change.”

Charlotte is 6-12 and the team has already started 12 different lineups this season. Borrego is searching for the best combination of players that will help the team win games regardless of each player’s contract status or seniority on the team.

As the Hornets look to right the ship, let’s take a look at more from the Southeast Division:

  • Kevin Huerter has been cleared to begin some on-court activity, Marc J. Spears of ESPN.com tweets. Huerter, who suffered a left rotator cuff strain earlier this month, will not play on the Hawks‘ upcoming road trip.
  • Wizards center Ian Mahinmi, who is in the final year of his four-year, $64MM deal, is close to returning to the court and the big man wants to prove that he has something left in the tank, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports reports. “This cannot be the end of this story,” Mahinmi told Hughes. “I’ve always wanted to be a valuable piece in that puzzle. So, in my mind, there’s still a lot of chapters left to be written.”
  • In the same piece, which is worth a read, Hughes compares Mahinmi’s game in Washington to his previous stop in Indiana and finds that the center’s per-36 numbers are actually slightly better with Wizards. “I’m a guy that wants to anchor the defense and who understands defensive principles. That’s who I am and what I can do,” Mahinmi said.

Wizards’ Ian Mahinmi Out At Least Six Weeks

The injury bug continues to plague the Wizards, who announced today in a press release that veteran center Ian Mahinmi has been diagnosed with a strained right Achilles tendon and will be re-evaluated in six weeks.

Mahinmi, who is entering the final year of the lucrative four-year contract he signed in 2016, is coming off a season in which he averaged 4.1 PPG and 3.8 RPG in just 34 games (14.6 MPG). It remains to be seen how much action the big man will get this year even once he’s healthy, as Thomas Bryant will start at center for Washington. Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, and Moritz Wagner also figure to play regular minutes in the frontcourt.

A six-week timetable would sideline Mahinmi through at least November 14, keeping him on the shelf for the first nine games of the Wizards’ season. Although he’ll be re-evaluated at that point, there’s no guarantee he’ll be immediately ready to return.

Mahinmi is the latest Wizard projected to miss the start of the season, joining Isaiah Thomas (thumb) and John Wall (Achilles). It’s not clear whether Troy Brown (calf) and C.J. Miles (foot) will be ready to go by opening night.

Wizards Notes: Injuries, Wall, Starters, Wagner

The Wizards will open training camp with several important players sidelined, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. John Wall, who may miss the entire season with a ruptured Achilles, is obviously a non-participant. He’s joined on the sidelines by Isaiah Thomas, who is recovering from thumb surgery; Troy Brown, who has a left calf strain; Ian Mahinmi, who is battling Achilles pain; and C.J. Miles, who had surgery on his left foot in July.

“We have some challenges ahead right now with our limited guys in training camp,” coach Scott Brooks admitted.

There’s more from Media Day in Washington:

  • Brooks answered “no” when asked if he’s mentally prepared to face a full season without Wall, but admitted that it’s a possibility (Twitter link). He promised the team will be patient with Wall’s rehab process, adding, “He’s not going to play until he’s ready to play 100 percent.” (Twitter link). Wall also addressed reporters, saying he will take cues from his body and is in “no rush” to return (Twitter link).
  • With so much turnover in the past eight months, the starting lineup remains unsettled heading into camp, Brooks said (Twitter link). Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant will both be starters, but the other three spots depend on what happens during the preseason.
  • Moritz Wagner is looking forward to a greater opportunity in Washington after playing just 43 games as a rookie with the Lakers, relays Chris Crouse of HoopsRumors (video link). Wagner, who was part of the trade that sent Anthony Davis to L.A., spent much of his first season in the G League. “My agent called and told me I was traded,” Wagner said. “That’s kind of how the business goes, I guess. That’s what you sign up for. People always talk about being traded as a bad thing. I think in my situation it was the best thing that could happen to me.”

“Open Season” On Wizards’ Roster

John Wall‘s likely decision to undergo season-ending ankle surgery has created a sense of urgency in Washington to shake up the roster, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports.

The Wizards have backed off the trade market in recent weeks as they inched closer to playoff contention, sitting four and a half games out of the eighth spot with a 13-23 record. However, the prospect of finishing the season without Wall seems to sink any hope for the postseason.

“They can’t move Wall now. Way too hard,” a rival executive tells Smith.(Ian) Mahinmi? Why pay to move him either? (Bradley) Beal and (Otto) Porter? Sure, in the right deal. (Markieff) Morris, (Jeff) Green, maybe even flip (Trevor) Ariza again? Those guys are all easily moved. It’s open season on that roster now.”

Another unidentified front office member described Washington’s dire situation by saying, “They’ve got to move on from Beal or Porter now, just to clear up the cap some. Vultures are starting to circle.” (Twitter link)

Without at least one move to clear salary, the Wizards will add luxury tax payments to an extremely disappointing season. Washington projects to be about $5MM above the $123.733MM tax line and is in danger of being in the same spot next year.

Wall is currently third on the team in salary at about $19.17MM, but that number will balloon next season when his four-year, $170MM extension kicks in. His injury, on top of that contract, makes him virtually untradable.

Porter will earn $26MM this year, $27.25MM in 2019/20 and has a nearly $28.5MM player option for the following season that he seems certain to exercise. Porter’s production hasn’t matched his potential since being given a rookie scale extension, and the Wizards might have to attach another asset to get a team to accept his contract.

Beal, who is coming off an All-Star season and posting a career-high 23.8 PPG scoring average, would probably fetch the best return. But the Wizards have to decide whether they want to part with a core piece who is under contract for about $55.8MM over the next two years.

Another possibility is to trade away Ariza, who was acquired from the Suns earlier this month to boost Washington’s playoff chances. Ariza has an expiring $15MM contract, but he cannot be aggregated, meaning traded along with teammates in the same deal, which could limit the Wizards’ options.

Washington is eligible to apply for a Disabled Player Exception if Wall is lost for the year, Smith adds (Twitter link). If approved, the franchise would have $8.641MM to work with that could be used to sign, trade for or claim a player off waivers. The Wizards would have to apply by January 15 and use it by March 10, and any roster addition will count against the tax.

Southeast Notes: Parker, Collins, Wizards, Clifford

Hawks power forward John Collins continues to show progress from mild inflammation and soreness in his left ankle, according to a team press release, but it’s still uncertain when he’ll make his season debut. The 2017 first-round selection has progressed to modified on-court drills and shooting routines with the goal of integrating him into modified team practice this week. Collins averaged 10.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG in his rookie year.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Tony Parker and Malik Monk head the list of pleasant surprises for the Hornets this season, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer examines. Parker has stabilized the second unit and Bonnell notes that the veteran point guard averaged 19.9 points and 9.2 assists per 100 possessions last season for the Spurs but is posting 28.2 points and 13.3 assists per 100 possessions in his first 10 games with Charlotte. Monk, a second-year shooting guard, is the team’s second-leading scorer (13.4 PPG) despite also coming off the bench.
  • Wizards coach Scott Brooks shortened his rotation in a victory over the Knicks on Sunday, as Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington points out. Ian Mahinmi was the odd man out even though the Knicks kept a traditional center on the court throughout the game. With Dwight Howard back in action and starting at center, Brooks used forward Markieff Morris at the five spot to make the second unit more mobile.
  • The Magic have gotten off to another slow start but first-year coach Steve Clifford is keeping the team’s spirits up with stories of how other teams he’s coached have gone through similar stretches, John Denton of the team’s website writes. “He was telling us that in his first year in Charlotte they were under (eight) games from .500, but they stuck together, kept fighting, made the playoffs and was a top-10 defensive team,’’ Magic swingman Evan Fournier said. “When a guy like that has seen it all, it gives you confidence and belief.”

Southeast Notes: Rivers, Clifford, Zeller, Mahinmi

Early in the summer the Wizards traded Marcin Gortat to the Clippers in exchange for Austin Rivers, a move that boosted the team’s backcourt depth and provides another option in small-ball lineups. The trade kicked off a busy offseason for Rivers, who has worked to adjust to life on the East Coast while adding a child to his family.

As Zach Rosen writes for the team’s website, Rivers will look to provide a consistent scoring punch off the bench and be a key cog in lineups alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris. That five-man unit will space the floor on offense and should be flexible on defense, which is a priority for Scott Brooks this season as he works to modernize the Wizards on both ends of the floor.

Rivers is coming off a career year in 2017/18, averaging 15.2 points and 4 assists per game while hitting 37.8% of his 3-pointers (he attempted nearly six per game). Rivers can both run the second-unit offense or be a secondary ball-handler when on the floor with the team’s All-Star guards, which will further diversify the Wizards’ attack. As Rosen points out, Brooks’ focus for the upcoming season is on 3-pointers, layups, dunks and defense, which should allow Rivers to fit right in.

As one of the team’s key additions, along with Dwight Howard and Jeff Green, Rivers will play an important role as the Wizards look to bounce back from a disappointing campaign in 2017/18.

There’s more from the Southeast division:

  • As he begins his first season as head coach of the Magic, Steve Clifford continues to tinker with possible lineup combinations. As John Denton writes for the team website, Clifford has specifically explored lineups that include both Mohamed Bamba and Nikola Vucevic on the floor. In such a lineup, the Magic would rely on Bamba to guard quicker power forwards due to his mobility. On offense, both bigs could play on the perimeter at times, given their shooting ability.
  • As the Hornets look to bounce back from another disappointing season, Cody Zeller will be a key piece to the puzzle. As Rick Bonnell points out for The Charlotte Observer, the Hornets have struggled mightily without Zeller, posting a 35-59 record in the games he has missed over the past four years. Zeller provides stellar two-way play and experience at the center position, which is exactly what the Hornets will need this season.
  • Finally able to go through a healthy offseason, Ian Mahinmi has looked much better in the Wizards‘ first two preseason games. As Chase Hughes writes for NBC Sports Washington, Mahinmi has started in place of Howard throughout the preseason and has had the sort of defensive impact the Wizards hoped for when they signed him during the 2016 offseason.