According to many basketball enthusiasts, Tyson Chandler was one of the biggest reasons for the Dallas Mavericks' success last season. Chandler brought an aggressive mentality to the team, both offensively and defensively, and the mindset seemed to rub off on the other Dallas players.
Unfortunately for the Mavs, Chandler was not brought back for another season with the team and that same aggressiveness has more or less faded.
The Mavericks opted not to bring in a replacement center for Chandler this off-season, despite a deep free agent class at the position. Instead, backup center Brendan Haywood was asked to step up into the starting role, with Frenchman Ian Mahinmi providing good minutes off of the bench.
Haywood, the second-highest paid player on the team, has not played very Chandler-like so far this season to say the least. He's started in the paint in all of the Mavericks' games this season, yet he's putting up an unimpressive 5.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per-game at this point. Only once has he reached 10 points in a game this season and that was on Monday against the Phoenix Suns.
In a team stocked full of good guards, Dallas needs the few bigs they have to step up if they want to have any sort of postseason success this year. Dirk Nowitzki is not necessarily known for his defense, so the Mavericks need somebody that they can trust to play down low.
Haywood is a decent center, but with Dallas's front office throwing him more than $8 million a year, he's likely not long for the Big D.
If the Mavericks decide not to pursue another center during regular season, backup Ian Mahinmi needs to see more floor time.
Mahinmi has played quite well for Dallas this season, despite his limited role. Unlike Haywood, Mahinmi has reached double-figures five times through the Mavericks' first 18 games. In that same game against Phoenix on Monday, he put up a season-high 17 points compared to Haywood's 10.
Averaging 20.4 minutes per-game, this is the first time in his NBA career that he's seen more than 10 minutes of floor time per-game.
Many were unsure of how Mahinmi would fare in an upgraded role with the Mavericks after Chandler's departure. Viewed as a project, it's been a pleasant surprise to watch him play this season.
If Haywood continues to fall flat and Mahinmi continues to impress, it will be about time to make a statement that a season ago would have been insanity: Ian Mahinmi needs to start for the Dallas Mavericks at center.