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The loss of Tyson Chandler to the New York Knicks put a lot of pressure on the Mavericks' frontcourt, especially defensively. After Chandler left, the pressure fell onto the shoulders of former Washington Wizard big man Brendan Haywood.
Haywood's career has been on a steady decline since arriving in Dallas two seasons ago. Last season Haywood was considered by many as the best backup center in the league, however he is by no means the quality big man that Chandler is.
The Mavericks definitely needed to do something to get Haywood some help in the paint. They picked up two former first round picks; Sean Williams and Brandan Wright, to add some depth to their frontcourt.
Both Williams and Wright have been underachievers to say the least so far, but another Dallas big man has definitely stepped his game up.
Enter Frenchman Ian Mahinmi.
Last season was Mahinmi's first in Dallas, where he saw around eight minutes of floor time a game, averaging three points and two rebounds per game.
Now a spot higher on the depth chart, Mahinmi now sees about 20 minutes of playing time per game, and has seen definite improvement in his scoring, rebounding, and shot blocking abilities.
In a game against the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 30, Mahinmi put up a career-high 19 points.
It's great to finally see some legitimate improvement in Mahinmi's game. Considered a "project" since his arrival in the league in 2005, this would be as good a year as any to see him come into his own. Nowitzki isn't necessarily known for his defense, and Brendan Haywood can not be a team's sole option down low.
If Mahinmi continues to show some steady improvement throughout the course of this season, he could fill the whole that was left empty by Chandler, and give the Mavericks the depth they need to make another great playoff run.