The Countdown is really cooking now. In case you're just joining the fun, I'm using the downtime granted by the lockout to rank the 16 players currently on the Dallas Mavericks' 15-man roster.
The rankings move from least to most vital for the Mavericks to defend their title. Now, there is a caveat here in that I decided to use the likelihood of returning to the roster as a major factor. Therefore, DeShawn Stevenson, who played a valuable role in the championship run, was ranked last because I believe the draft-night trade for 6-foot-6 shooting guard Rudy Fernandez ended the free agent Stevenson's time in Dallas.
Quibble if you must, but let's keep moving with today's ranking: No. 13
Experience: 3 years
Age: 24 (Nov 5, 1986)
Contract status: Through 2011-12
2010-11 salary: $885,120
2011-12 salary: $947,907
His story: Mahinmi is the happy-go-lucky Frenchman, who at times threatened -- if only in the media's mind -- to take over the backup center role from Brendan Haywood. But that was more about Haywood underachieving than any great strides made by Mahinmi. That's not to diminish moments of intriguing play throughout the season and right through Game 6 of the NBA Finals, when he came through with Haywood unable to play because of a hip flexor injury. Dallas acquired Mahinmi last offseason after he spent his first two years mostly sitting on the bench with the San Antonio Spurs. The Mavs signed him after inking Haywood to a lucrative six-year deal and before making the trade for Tyson Chandler. Mahinmi played in 56 regular-season games and six postseason games. He possesses energy the team loves but sometimes needs to be more under control. His upside includes better-than-average offensive skill and he is a solid free-throw shooter.
His outlook: Is it possible that Mahinmi could be the Mavs' backup center next season? One of two things would have to happen for that to be a consideration. The first is a worst-case scenario for the Mavs, and that's if Chandler leaves via free agency. The other is if Dallas gets a palatable offer for Haywood, who has five years and about $48 million left on his contract -- the last year at $9.8 million is not guaranteed. A new CBA will almost certainly mean the Mavs will be looking to shed salary when business resumes and serviceable centers are always in demand. The Mavs viewed Mahinmi as a project when they signed him and they do like his youthfulness and athleticism on an older roster. If Dallas keeps Chandler and Haywood, Mahinmi will be a valuable insurance policy as he continues to develop.