Type Luc Mbah a Moute’s name into YouTube and you’ll find videos like “Mbah a Moute monster block on LeBron James,” “Mbah a Moute vs. Kevin Durant,” and “Mbah a Moute Iso Defense.” But this season, videos like “Mbah drops 18 points” or “Mbah a Moute goes for 19” are becoming the norm.
For the better part of his seven-season NBA career, defense has been Mbah a Moute’s calling card. The 6’8” forward from Cameroon entered the league as a tested collegiate athlete, the first player at UCLA since Bill Walton to start in three consecutive Final Fours.
When he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2008 NBA Draft, Mbah a Moute had solidified himself as a legitimate defensive stalwart who could suit up at either the three or the four positions on the floor. He was honorable mention All Pac-10 as well as honorable mention Pac-10 All-Defensive Team.
Fast forward to August 23, 2014, and Mbah a Moute found himself a piece in the blockbuster deal that centered around sending Kevin Love from Minnesota to Cleveland to team up with LeBron James and Thaddeus Young from Philadelphia to Minnesota in return for a 2015 first-round pick, Mbah a Moute, and Alexey Shved.
When the veteran forward arrived in Philadelphia, he was immediately an elder statesmen on the NBA’s youngest team. On the court, Mbah a Moute’s main job has been that of defensive Swiss Army knife, going one-on-one against point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards, and even centers at times and starting 42 of the 41 games in which he’s appeared this season.
« I think he is experiencing growth and giving us help pretty much all over the place,” head coach Brett Brown said earlier this season. “He helps us defensively, with his versatility. He is growing his own game from the perimeter and provides veteran stability in a locker room.”
While Mbah a Moute typically matches up with the opposing team’s most lethal offense threat on a nightly basis, he also has grown into a competent scorer whose 9.8 points per game are a career best.
His offense play of late has been exceptionally noteworthy, as he has scored at least 10 points in eight of his last nine games. This stretch included an 18-point outburst against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team-high and a major factor in the 103-94 victory.
Along with his career-high points, he is also averaging career highs in field goals made (3.9) and field goals attempted (9.2).
The biggest indicator of Mbah a Moute’s new role is his average shot distance, which has ballooned from 8.3 feet to 13.3. This trend emphasizes the fact that Mbah a Moute is taking more jump shots and is confident in hitting the outside shot, a statistic highlighted by his 42.4% field goal percentage from 16 to 24 feet, which also is a career high. Just take a look at his shot chart this season (below) and hover over it to see what it looked like in his first six seasons.
If you watch or go to Sixers game you’ll still see Mbah a Moute guarding the likes of LeBron, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, or even Al Jefferson, but you’ll also see him hitting jumpers, driving the lane, and providing scoring on an offense that needs as much of it as it can get. It seems that he is defying the odds and turning against the idea that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
by Doug Ammon