In making the playoffs for the first time in four years and posting their first winning record in seven seasons, the Milwaukee Bucks took a big step in the right direction in 2009-10.
In his second NBA season out of UCLA, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute took a leap forward as well. Luc became a player the Bucks depended on last year, starting 62 of his 73 games, and gave Milwaukee a much desired defensive boost as he locked down on some of the league’s best.
Luc’s energy played a huge part in Milwaukee’s success last season (Getty Images).
But one particular area of Luc’s game caught the attention of Bucks blogger Frank Madden of Brew Hoop this offseason: No. 12’s prowess on the offensive glass.
For the second straight season, Luc trailed only Bucks center and noted glass cleaner Andrew Bogut on the offensive boards. Luc pulled down 2.3 offensive rebounds per game to Bogut’s 3.0 and they were the only two players on the team to average more than two offensive boards per contest. But as Madden pointed out, with help from some advanced statistics, Luc’s energy and effort on the defensive end may have been infectious:
« What’s especially fascinating is how much better the Bucks were on the glass with Luc in the game. Despite often playing as an undersized four, Mbah a Moute had by far the best on/off rebounding differential on the club–the Bucks grabbed over 3% more offensive rebounds and 2.9% more defensive boards with him on the court vs. off. That’s pretty amazing given that Ilyasova is a better rebounder at PF and Delfino isn’t too much worse at SF. So it’s not like Luc was competing for minutes with terrible rebounders who made him look good. Does Luc’s defense make his teammates better defensive rebounders? Quite possibly. »
The Bucks head into a new season this week with new faces dotting their rosters, but will rely heavily on last year’s stalwarts like Luc, Brandon Jennings, Bogut and John Salmons to take them out of the first round of the playoffs. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports thinks that, if Milwaukee can incorporate their new arrivals and maintain the chemistry that made them successful, they could be a force in the Central Division:
« Jennings and the Bucks have reason to feel good about their chances entering the new season. Not content to simply build upon last season’s success, the Bucks reshaped their roster during the summer. They acquired swingman Corey Maggette, guard Chris Douglas-Roberts and forward Jon Brockman in trades, and signed forward Drew Gooden, guards Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins, as free agents. Rookie power forward Larry Sanders is expected to make an impact off the bench immediately.
Luc Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino make the Bucks deep at small forward and give the team some tradable commodities. Most important, Milwaukee re-signed guard John Salmons, who helped the team go 22-8 and reach the playoffs after he was acquired from the Chicago Bulls at the trade deadline.
Give the small-market Bucks credit. They weren’t reluctant to spend. In addition to giving Salmons and Gooden contracts potentially worth $39 million and $32 million, respectively, Milwaukee also took on the remaining three years and $31 million of Maggette’s deal. The Bucks’ moves didn’t draw nearly the attention as those of the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics, but Jennings thinks Milwaukee’s hefty investment will pay off.
« We can win the Central Division, to tell you the truth, » Jennings said. « I’m gonna thank LeBron for leaving the Central Division. I would think it’s between us and Chicago, but I still think we are deeper right now. »
Meanwhile, Shaun Powell of NBA.com said Luc leads on of the best benches in the league:
Bucks. Strange thing: Wasn’t it just a few years ago when the Bucks didn’t even have a quality starting five? Now their bench is quality. What’s not to love about Ersan Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute? Then there’s Earl Boykins, fan favorite and still able to amaze despite his size. Speaking of size, Jon Brockman might surprise folks this year, and Keyon Dooling is a quality backup for Brandon Jennings. The Bucks are headed up.
RETURN TO LA
Late last month Luc joined several fellow UCLA alums in returning to the campus for the Second Annual HDSA LA Hoop-A-Thon hosted by Ben Howland in Pauley Pavilion.
The UCLA Athletics website said the event is designed to raise funds for Huntington’s Disease Society of America:
All proceeds from the event will go to the UCLA Center of Excellence for patient care and services as well as research for a cure of Huntington’s Disease (HD).
HD directly affects Howland’s family as his father-in-law, Arlo Zahnow, had Huntington’s Disease.
The list of UCLA alumni basketball players in attendance included current NBA players Jordan Farmar of the New Jersey Nets, Arron Afflalo of the Denver Nuggets, Trevor Ariza of the New Orleans Hornets, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute of the Milwaukee Bucks, Ryan Hollins of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Darren Collison of the Indiana Pacers.
Other alums included Toby Bailey and Director of Operations Tyus Edney from the 1995 NCAA title team, Tracy Murray, Don MacLean, Mitchell Butler and Lou Ritchie. UCLA women’s head coach Nikki Caldwell and her staff were also in attendance.
« This is a very important cause to me and my family, » said Howland. « For all of these former players to come out tonight … I can’t put into words what that means to me. »
For a photo gallery of the event, which features pictures of Luc with his former teammates and coach, click here.
Second Annual HDSA Hoop-A-Thon A Big Success (UCLABruins.com, August 28, 2010)
Best off the bench: breaking down the top reserve squads (NBA.com, September 2, 2010)
Milwaukee’s test: Chemistry 101 (Yahoo! Sports, September 14, 2010)
Glass Ceiling: Will the Bucks be better rebounders in 2010/11 (Brew Hoop, August 25, 2010)
2010 HDSA LA Hoop-A-Thon Photo Gallery (UCLABruins.com, August 28, 2010)