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Mavericks should quickly pivot to Ian Mahinmi if Hassan Whiteside falls through

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If the Mavericks strike out on Hassan Whiteside, they might look to an old friend in Ian Mahinmi.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Our individual free agent profiles continue with Ian Mahinmi, the former Maverick. You can read all our free agent profiles here.

The Mavericks' free agency plan is pretty clear now. Point guard Mike Conley and center Hassan Whiteside are at the top of their board, and the dream scenario is landing both of them.

Whiteside will meet with the Mavericks when free agency opens on July 1, and he reportedly hopes to have a decision made on the same day, which is great for Dallas. If Whiteside happens to pick Dallas, awesome. But, if (when?) Whiteside chooses another squad, the Mavericks can quickly look at other alternatives at center before the board is cleared.

One option could be old friend Ian Mahinmi. Remember him?

Mahinmi has improved a lot since he left Dallas after the 2011-12 season, and became the full-time starting center for the Indiana Pacers last season. He's nowhere near the top centers on the market. But, if Whiteside spurns Dallas, Mahinmi and the Mavs will certainly be connected.

Fit with the Mavericks

Mahinmi fits the bill for what Dallas is looking for in a center. He's an athletic, rim-rolling big that fits Dallas' offense and has become a decent shot blocker on the defensive end. He's not Whiteside, but he's a decent alternative if it comes to that.

Any team that lands Mahinmi would get him off a career season. After the Pacers traded Roy Hibbert to Los Angeles, Mahinmi was thrust into the starting role and performed pretty well. He played and started 71 games and played 25.6 minutes again, averaging 9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. All are career highs.

Those stats certainly don't jump off the page, and he still hasn't averaged more than 30 minutes per game in his career. But, Mahinmi has evolved into a serviceable starting center in this league. He won't be Whiteside on defense, but 1.1 blocks is better than anyone Dallas had on their roster last year.

He'd also be a smooth fit in Dallas' offense. He didn't play a ton during his first stint with the Mavericks, but he knows how Rick Carlisle operates. He's not very good in the mid-range, but is excellent around the basket and his style of play fits a lot better than Zaza Pachulia's did. Zaza did average 9.4 rebounds, more than Mahinmi's 7.1. But, Zaza also shot 46.6 percent from the field, which included a few maddening misses from up close and from midrange.

Mahinmi, meanwhile, is very good around the basket, can roll to the rim, block shots here and there and is an upgrade over Zaza athletically. He'd also have two intriguing young centers behind him in Salah Mejri and A.J. Hammons. Add Mahinmi to that mix and it's a decent, serviceable center rotation.

Likelihood

This can only happen if Whiteside doesn't pick Dallas. After a career-year as a starter, Mahinmi isn't taking less money for a bench role, especially with Mejri and Hammons already occupying those spots.

If Whiteside spurs the Mavs, there will be a short list of centers for Dallas to pursue in the aftermath. Bismack Biyombo, Joakim Noah, Festus Ezeli and even Dwight Howard are all names that come to mind. But, there are issues with each of them.

Ezeli is restricted and may not be worth it. Noah is old, and doesn't have the athleticism the Mavs are looking for. Biyombo will certainly get overpaid by someone after his playoff performance. Perhaps Dallas gets desperate enough to take a hard look at Howard if the Whiteside plan fails. But, he still might command more than Dallas wants to pay.

That leaves Mahinmi as a very viable option. Depending on how things go July 1, Mahinmi might find his way back to Dallas.