He's a young and athletic player with good size and length. Has great mobility and gets off the floor quickly. His physical gifts along with rebounding and shot blocking instincts are intriguing. But for three seasons with the Spurs, he's been unproductive. I think he's a great guy and in this season he might be able to help and prove himself once and for all.
I would say he's a bit unlucky the past years, I mean how would you explain the series of injuries that happened to this guy? Remember the ankle injury he sustained that required exploratory surgery because a tiny bone chip won't show up on MRI results? Then just this September, he got a little scare when he strained a hamstring while playing for the French national team in the Eurobasket. But that's all in the past.
Now it looked like he's finally healthy and in good shape. He's matured enough, and I think he's ready (maybe too eager) to contribute. Before coming to the NBA, he played two seasons in France and last year he spent his time playing with the Austin Toros where he showed improvement and flashes of his potential.
This season is very important for him. It could make or break his NBA career, and so far he hasn't impressed. But at least his basketball instincts are good and his uncommon size and athleticism sets him apart from other bigs. McDyess even said this about him "Oh, my goodness, this guy is good, I wondered why I hadn't heard more about him. I love his game."
He has potential no doubt, but in order for him to stick with the Spurs; he must show that he belong. To my mind he's a younger version of Theo Ratliff, quick hands and feet with great shot blocking instincts. If he can stay healthy, now is his best shot. He is slowly developing some low post moves that could really help him on offense and his long arms and quickness, if used properly could be a great asset for the team.
I think for Ian to get better, he needs to add some weight; bulk up a little bit. He also needs to strengthen his leg muscles so that he can't be easily out of position when he boxes out for a rebound or try to make a move in the paint.
Lastly, and I think more importantly he needs to be mentally tough. It's clear that he can play. In fact, he's very active on both ends of the floor when he does. He is also comitted to defense. But he needs to focus and relax a bit, don't be too anxious or try to do a lot of things at the same time. That way he can stay away from those ticky tack fouls, and with that he can be more effective. The longer he stays on the floor, the more time he can prove that he's worth the wait.
This season, the Spurs are deeper and stronger up front. DeJuan Blair is proving to be beast; I can't still believe that 16 points and 19 boards performance in just 22 minutes. McDyess looked like he played with Spurs for years. Theo still has enough springs to block a shot and Tim is back healthy.
But that doesn't mean the Spurs don't need Ian anymore, sometimes the 'lesser known' can make a difference... And with a little luck (to stay healthy) and a lot time to develop (TD, McDyess and Ratliff can mentor Mahinmi as the season goes along). I believe that Ian has it in him, he has tremendous potential. Now it's up to him, time for him to show up...