The Best of a Bad Situation: 17. Luc Mbah a Moute

(We’re counting down the best 20 Bucks since 1991 over the next few weeks. It’s something to do with the lockout sucking the life out of NBA fans. We continue with number 17. Luc Mbah a Moute, one of the premier defensive forces over the last three NBA seasons. – Jeremy)

If I could love any one thing as much as Luc Mbah a Moute loves playing defense, I’d be a better man.

If I approached a woman the same way LRMAM approaches offense, I’d be slapped.

As hard as it is to believe, there are parts of LRMAM’s offensive game that are actually pretty good. It’s hard to believe, but trust. The essence of his offense originates in his defense.

What makes LRMAM’s defense great isn’t his length, speed, strength or any other physical attribute. It’s his mind. LRMAM reads individuals and teams like a children’s book. He knows what you’re doing and where your teammates are going. He never bites on pump-fakes and makes it difficult for anyone to get the spot they want on the floor. He bites just hard enough on PNRs to give his teammate time to recover, but not let his man get away.

Back to his offense. It’s too bad that once the ball touches his hands, everything goes to hell. His handle is a minor tragedy. People pray that his jump shot will improve, but that’s like hoping the characters from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia become good people. LRMAM’s off-ball movement is actually pretty good. His cuts are crisp. That’s why he finishes so well at the rim: over 60 percent field goal percentage at the rim in his first two seasons. But that percentage dropped last season to 57 percent.  After setting picks, he rolls well to the basket and can also find the open spot for a jumper. He gets open partly because the opposing team often doesn’t see him as an offensive threat, but the bigger part is that he always knows where he needs to be on the court.

Flashback to the first time many of us ever saw LRMAM. Elite Eight. Gonzaga v. UCLA. 71-70. 19.7 seconds left. Gonzaga inbounds to Adam Morrison whom Mbah a Moute traps with Aaron Afflalo. Morrison passes to J.P. Batista who gets the ball stripped by Jordan Farmar. At that moment, everyone loses it. The crowd’s and benches are going nuts. Gus Johnson is being Gus Johnson. Most of the players on the court on the court are still processing what’s happening and don’t move for another second.

LRMAM instinctively cuts to the basket for the easy-layup.

Bold statement: 90 percent of college players don’t make that cut. Most pros wouldn’t either. But the kid from Cameroon who started playing basketball at the age of 14 does. Some things you can’t teach.

When the offense was rolling just after the Bucks traded for John Salmons in 2010, he was an asset. A glue guy that is an elite defender at three positions is something that a lot of teams want. Then the wheels fell off last season and he’s been seen as nothing but a liability since. Everyone forgets what he brings to the table and only sees a guy who offensively plays best as a mediocre four, but is too small to rebound effectively at the position. If only the statkeepers worked as hard as LRMAM does every given night, we could have stats for deflecting loose balls to teammates, recovering after helping on defense and making the opposing team’s best player swear in frustration. If little things like that were recorded, LRMAM would be a double-double threat every night and we could really have proof of everything he brings to the table.

Ian Segovia is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Categories: 20 Bucks for 20 Years



  1. I have a sneaking suspicion that this offseason someone is going to offer Mbah a Moute a contract for more than he’s worth just to make the Bucks match it and cripple their own salary cap. Good article I had Mbah a Moute right around the same spot on my list

  2. @Ted
    There’ll still be some semblance of an offseason once the CBA is resolved, but who knows when that will be.

    Brew Hoop had a very good podcast where they were talking about the value of Mbah a Moute. For the Lakers, Mbah a Moute’s value to them could be very high. LRMAM would relieve Kobe of the stresses of guarding the other team’s best perimeter player every night. For the Bucks, it isn’t as high because, theoretically, the team defense and system is strong although there’s no doubt that there’d be at least a slight drop on defense.

    What the Bucks offer LRMAM won’t just be a huge sign of how much the Bucks value LRMAM, but how confident they are in Skiles system. My guess is that he’ll get a qualifying offer, but little else. Even with the Salmons deal, Hammond has been significantly better with his free agent signings that Larry Harris (shudders). He’s only offered the house to guys who weren’t thought to be role players and when things do go bad, he resets as quickly as possible

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