Countdown: No. 9 Ian Mahinmi

Seventh in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.

Ian Mahinmi recorded career-best statistics across the board in his second season with the Dallas Mavericks -- his fourth in the league and first as a true backup center.

Even in a lockout-shortened schedule, he played a career-high 61 games this season and average 5.8 points and 4.8 rebounds, also career bests. The 18.7 minutes a game he averaged were 10 full minutes more than he averaged during his career-high last season as the Mavs' third-string center.

So where is Mahinmi's ceiling?

How much is an improving, yet still semi-raw big man worth? How many years is a team willing to give him? Is he starting material or is he destined to be a career backup? Can he become a low-post scoring threat? Can he become a better rebounder? Can he hold his ground better defensively? Can he stop fouling on the perimeter?

All these questions will determine the fashionable Frenchman's worth and whether he'll be back in Dallas or continuing to grow his career with a third team in his fifth season.

The Countdown rolls on at No. 9 ...


Pos.: C

Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-11, 230

Experience: 4 years

Age: 25 (Nov. 5, 1986)

2011-12 stats: 5.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 18.7 mpg

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

2011-12 salary: $915,852

2012-13 salary: TBD

His story: He got his initial lessons in American basketball with the fundamentally sound San Antonio Spurs for two seasons in which he barely got off the bench. The Mavs afforded him an opportunity and he's made considerable strides. He got off to such an impressive start to this season that it seemed he might be making a run at Brendan Haywood's starting job. But as Brandan Wright got more playing time, Mahinmi saw his minutes dwindle, as well as his production. In his first 24 games, Mahinmi averaged 20.2 minutes a game, 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds. Then came the 25th game and a curious DNP-coach's decision on Feb. 4 at Cleveland. In his final 37 games, his numbers dipped to 17.6 minutes, 4.5 points and 4.1 rebounds... His greatest weakness is his penchant for picking up needless fouls that send him to the bench. Of the Mavs' three centers this season, Mahinmi is the most promising and well-rounded offensively, able to maneuver around the basket and finish while also being able to step out and hit the mid-range jumper at the free throw line and along the baseline.

His outlook: As stated above, where is Mahinmi's ceiling, and how far will a team go to sign him in free agency? If one takes a leap, it would likely mean he'll say goodbye to Dallas. The Mavs, though, have an interesting dilemma potentially brewing. If they use the amnesty clause on Haywood, they will be in need of a starting center. Do they believe Mahinmi can fill that space? Not likely if the goal is to be a top team in the West. Wright, as was seen all season, isn't a true center and doesn't have the body to battle down low for extended minutes. As with everything else tied to the Mavs' roster as the summer approaches, what transpires in free agency (i.e. landing a "big fish") will determine the direction the club takes with Mahinmi and a number of players.

No. 15 Lamar Odom

No. 14 Brian Cardinal

No. 13 Yi Jianlian

No. 12 Dominique Jones

No. 11 Brendan Haywood

No. 10 Kelenna Azubuike

No. 9 Ian Mahinmi

No. 8 Coming Wednesday