Scouting Report: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
The Milwaukee Bucks cleared a portion of their logjam by trading Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to the Kings for two second round picks. Mbah a Moute has been slowed by injuries in the past two seasons, missing 47 games over the past two seasons. He has been limited in the games he has appeared in as well, due to his knee injury. If he can stay healthy, Mbah a Moute will be a key member of the Kings rotation, as he should slide into a small forward rotation that needs a boost. This post will look at some of his strengths and weaknesses and try to predict how he will help or hinder his new team.
The biggest strength for Mbah a Moute is his defense, which will help a Kings team that ranked 29th in defensive efficiency last season. According to 82games.com, he held opposing small forwards to 43% effective field goal percentage and a 10.0 PER. He is able to slow opposing players in several ways, as we will see from the video below.
The first aspect of defense we are going to review is Mbah a Moute’s post defense. He ranked 36th in the league in lowest points per possession allowed in plays ending a post up according to Synergy Sports, with 0.63 PPP allowed while limiting opponents to 33% shooting.
He is often matched up against the best offensive forwards in the league and he shows that he can limit their effectiveness in the post. The first key to this is how far he pushes the player away from the block before they make the catch. This little bump right before they catch pushes them farther away from the rim than they want, which gives the advantage to Mbah a Moute. He then holds a wide base to stop his opponent from backing down toward the rim. Notice how wide his feet are right when the catch is made, which gives him the extra strength to fight off being backed down. This forces the offensive player into a tough turnaround or fadeaway and Mbah a Moute is able to challenge the shot, making the shot extremely difficult.
The impressive part of this is how he is able to defend these proficient offensive players without any help or a double team. This allows the passing lanes to be shut off and forces the tough shot as the offensive player is unable to maneuver past Mbah a Moute. Sacramento was actually a decent defensive team against post ups, allowing only 0.82 PPP but Mbah a Moute will be called on regularly to defend in these situations one on one and his contributions in this area should not go unappreciated.
Mbah a Moute is just as good in isolation defense, allowing 41% on two point opportunities that were classified as isolation possession by Synergy. Again, he is matched up against some of the best offensive players with little help from his teammates, which is by design. The key aspect of his defense to watch here is his footwork as he is able to quickly slide his feet laterally to stay in front of the ball. He slides so well from side to side that it is hard for even the quickest players he guards to get by him.
He starts each defensive possession by extending up past the three point line to take away the threat of a pull up three point shot. He then gets right up in the ballhandler’s face to harass them as they struggle to get by Mbah a Moute. He quickly slides from slide to slide to stay in front of the dribbler and uses his long arms to further make the offensive player’s goal difficult. Notice how he always stays on balance in his slides, never overextending himself and leaving himself vulnerable to get beaten. This allows him to force the tough jump shot and challenge it to end the possession.
Off Ball Movement
Mbah a Moute’s offensive game is severely limited but he is able to poach some easy baskets through offensive rebounds and off ball movements. One of his signature moves is to hang out in the corner and then cut baseline to the rim when his teammate begins his drive. Since he is not a threat to shoot, the defender often loses sight of him while focusing more on the penetration, allowing free reign for Mbah a Moute to make his cut to the rim.
Look at where Klay Thompson is positioned when defending Mbah a Moute in the second play of the video below. He is high above Mbah a Moute in an attempt to defend the pick and roll, which he deems as a higher threat than a corner three from Mbah a Moute. Once Thompson gets sucked higher, Mbah a Moute makes the baseline cut for the layup.
The guard situation is still in flux for the Kings at this point in time but regardless of the team makeup at the beginning of the season, Mbah a Moute will not be called up to be a major offensive contributor, nor will he be able to fill that role. He will need to continue to find the open space when defenses leave him, trust the guards to find him when he cuts and be ready to make the catch for the close range shot.
Areas for improvement
As we discussed Mbah a Moute does not create offense for himself very well at all. He’s a fairly low usage player, as he used only 16.5% of possessions last season. This is because he is unable to get his own shot off the dribble, as we will see from the below video. He’s not a prolific shooter, as we see from his shot chart.
This allows the defense to play off of him, which decreases the space he has to create and then he is not crafty enough to create off the dribble. He also looks uncomfortable shooting even when he does have some space, which leads his shots to go awry.
Mbah a Moute shot only 42% on post ups last season, which isn’t great considering that these are closer range shots than jump shots. He shows good footwork, which is not surprising based on his defensive footwork highlighted above, but he just needs to work on his finishing after creating separation from his defender.
The first clip below is a perfect illustration of how he could become a better two way player. He makes an excellent up and under move to beat the defender but didn’t elevate enough to avoid the block from the secondary defender. His footwork to beat the defender was great but he needs to improve on finishing the play and getting the basket.
The second clip demonstrates this concept as well. He steps by his defender but blows what should be a routine finish. His post moves are above average and he gets good looks out of his post offense, he just needs to finish better.
This area, more than creating off the dribble, is one I could realistically see Mbah a Moute improve on for the upcoming season. He has little hope or need to become a better isolation player but he could dramatically improve his value to the Kings if he can improve on his finishes out of the post. He seems to be the opposite of most players, as most need to improve their footwork to get better shots but Mbah a Moute already gets easy shots, he just needs to make them.
I think the Kings got themselves a player they can rely on to be their small forward for this season, as long as he stays healthy. That is quite a gamble based on the past two seasons, as this article argues. If he does stay healthy and is able to contribute 30+ minutes, he should be a player who adds positive value to the team. His defense will certainly help, as he will be able to cover some of the best offensive players in the league straight up, allowing the rest of the team to deny the off ball players, which should hopefully improve one of the worst defenses from last season.
His offensive game is clearly limited but the Kings will not be relying on him to create his own offense. He needs to continue to cut into open space when his defenders lose track of him and he should be a dangerous cutter when the ball is in the hands of Greivis Vasquez. If he can improve at finishing in the post (and stays healthy), he may turn into one of the better acquisitions of this offseason.