Among players who’ve played at least ten games and average over 15 minutes a game, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has the 20th worst PER. At 9.23, he comes in 5.77 points below league average, indicating he’s probably at best an end of the bench player who shouldn’t really be getting minutes.
So with all the progress we’ve made statistically over the past few years, this indicates we’re not quite there yet with regard to statistics accurately measuring players.
I don’t blame PER for its inability to accurately measure Mbah a Moute. Nearly everything he does is impossible to gauge from a statistics point of view. If the stats were made public, as I’m sure someone is keeping them somewhere, I’m sure we’d see that the Bucks deflect far more passes when Mbah a Moute is on the court than off. He alone is good for a number of deflections each game and his attitude towards getting a hand on the ball as much as possible seems to rub off on his teammates when he’s in. In his start against Orlando, his first in five games, the Bucks had at least five deflections in the first quarter by my count. They hadn’t played with that kind of interest or effort on defense in weeks. How easy to measure is amplified intensity on the defensive end?
The feeling of comfort the other players have when The Prince starts isn’t easy to measure either, but it’s there. Andrew Bogut is relieved when he sees Mbah a Moute on the wing matching up with the other team’s best perimeter player and keeping him out of the lane. “We think he’s an all-league defender. He guards the best players every night; he’s done a hell of a job for us this season. He keeps me out of foul trouble too, he definitely helps.”
Coach Scott Skiles offers similar praise for Mbah a Moute’s defense. “The one thing he does do is you feel a little bit more comfortable with any wing player the other team has, at least you have a chance.” Luc offered a somewhat different take of the team’s mental state with regard to defense.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to help the team. If that’s what it means to the guys when I’m in there, then I’m all for it. I want guys to feel comfortable and play great defense. If they feel that way when I’m on the court, that’s great.
Then Luc offered up a smile and these words.
“But they should feel the same way when I’m on the sideline.”
Defense definitely is his priority.
So if everyone is so unified in their thinking that LRMAM is one key to the Bucks playing well defensively, why has he only started in 12 of his 23 games this year?
- I don’t know.
- He’s still not quite there yet on offense.
All summer we heard about how hard Luc was working to improve his jump-shot, well he’s still working and it still isn’t all that improved. The Prince is actually shooting a worse percentage from 16-23 feet this year (32) than he was last year (36). He seems to be thinking about it more when he catches with an open mid-range shot. It’s as if the process going through is mind is, “Everyone is telling me I need to be able to hit this shot when it’s open and I’m not completely confident, but I have to shoot because I am incredibly open right now, so I’ll see what happens when I throw it up there.” And that doesn’t seem like the recipe for success. But there are clear signs of improvement elsewhere on the court
Against Orlando the Bucks went to The Prince in the post early. “Luc has a little bit of a sneaky post up game. We go down there to him a little bit and against certain people he can get a basket.”
Elsewhere, Mbah a Moute is 5-11 on corner three’s. The patented Bruce Bowen corner three I should say. This is one of the shots everyone was hoping he would develop and there have been, at minimum, signs of progress here. Skiles says Mbah a Moute’s work ethic is not what’s holding him back. “All we can control is how hard he’s working on it and he’s working very hard at it. He’s in before practice, after practice, he’s out here before the games; he’s always working on his game. I have seen guys work very very hard and never really improve. On the other hand, almost all of them do. He finds himself open in almost every game, people leave him open and sometimes he knocks them down, sometimes he doesn’t and he knows that and that’s why he works so hard at it. You have to work very hard at it and you have to believe you’re a good shooter.”
Assuming Mbah a Moute falls in the category of “players who get better” and does one day develop a reliable open jumper, the Bucks will be in good shape. There will be no further reasons to hold him off the court and/or out of the starting lineup. Just don’t expect to see that PER skyrocket any time soon. Perennial all-NBA defender Bruce Bowen never had one over ten during his terrific defensive run for the Spurs. But, that worked out pretty well.