Zach already did a nice job of talking about the actual transaction between Minnesota and Sacramento that switched Derrick Williams for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and he included some info on the man we’ll all get used to calling LRMAM, but I thought I’d go a little more in-depth on him with some numbers.
Mbah a Moute was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 37th overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. Like Kevin Love, he went to UCLA. He’s currently 27 years old, making him about the same age as Corey Brewer and Nikola Pekovic, for comparison. He’s from Cameroon (where Zach noted he’s an actual prince) and his last name is pronounced “BAH ah MOO-tay.” The first “M” is silent.
Coming off the bench for Sacramento this season, he’s averaging 21.8 minutes per game, in which he’s scoring an average of 4.4 points while grabbing 3 rebounds. He’s shooting 47% on 3.6 attempts per game (and attempting less than one 3-pointer a game) and averaging 1.6 trips to the line where he’s hitting 69%. Per 36 minutes, he goes to 7.3 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.8 apg (that’s particularly good for a bench big man — Dante Cunningham averages about an assist less per 36 this year and Derrick Williams — prepare yourself — was averaging .2 assists per 36). He also chips in 1.7 steals and about a block per 36, both of which are key since he’s known as a defensive-minded player.
Drilling a little deeper into advanced analytics, we can see that his PER is below league average at 12.1, but that’s not really surprising for a defensive specialist since PER has a bit of a rough time with defense. Over his career, his offensive and defensive ratings are about even at 105 and 104, respectively, but again: for a guy coming off the bench, this is pretty solid work. This season he actually has an ORtg of 117 and a DRtg of 106, which is good, but probably also a little misleading since he’s only played a total of 196 minutes. (Of course, Williams only managed 162 minutes so far this season.)
All of that is what Basketball Reference can tell us. NBAWowy has some interesting info to contribute for on/off numbers. This season, the Kings are scoring 1.053 points per possession with LRMAM on the court and 1.021 ppp with him off the court. Not a huge swing. It’s not as rosy for LRMAM on the defensive side, actually. Opponents are scoring 1.102 ppp with him on, 1.058 with him off. But keep in mind the Kings are not very good (4-9, last in the Pacific, with a net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) of -4.6).
So the case for LRMAM is not stunningly good when it comes to on/off numbers, but Williams looks even worse by comparison. With Williams on the bench, Minnesota is scoring 1.192 ppp while giving up 1.095, or basically 10 more points per 100 possessions. With Williams on the floor, they’re scoring .934 ppp and giving up 1.016, a nearly 18-point swing in the wrong direction. Long story short, LRMAM is not going to solve the offensive deficiencies of the Wolves’ bench, but solving defensive problems is in some way solving offensive problems as well. If the bench can play closer to even with LRMAM out there than they could with Williams, that’s a net gain.
The NBA’s Player Tracking site has some more wrinkles to add, especially in comparison to Williams. Opposing players are shooting 42.9% at the rim against LRMAM, 66.7% against Williams. LRMAM is making 80% of his close shots and has an effective FG% of 48.4% while Williams is only making 50% of his close shots and has an effective FG% of 37%.
When you put all this together, what it essentially shows is that Mbah a Moute is a player who understands his own game on the floor, and that’s precisely what you want out of a bench player. Williams’ poor effective FG% (which weights 3-pointers more heavily than 2-pointers) points to his subpar decision-making right now: when he catches the ball he never seems certain whether he wants to pull up or drive or stepback. As a result, he’s often taking poor quality shots. And Williams’ struggles to finish are well known — basically, a guys as athletic as he is shouldn’t be making only half his shots at the rim.
Mbah a Moute is going to fit much better into Adelman’s vision of the team than Williams ever did or would. Much like Cunningham, Mbah a Moute has carved out a niche for himself and can do that job capably — the equation of his talent, his approach and his minutes is roughly in equilibrium, and that’s exactly what you want for a player coming in off the bench.
By way of contrast, Williams has too much natural athleticism to figure out what to do with it in limited minutes behind Kevin Love. It’s always been concerning that he doesn’t seem to have the motor and initiative to go along with his physical gifts, but I honestly think there’s a strong chance he comes into his own if he can get starter’s minutes on a not-so-good team where he can make mistakes. It’s been hard to tell how much of his indecision on the court is due to something inherent in his approach or a product of just not fitting into what Adelman has wanted him to do. With him in Sacramento, we should get a chance to see.
The bottom line here is that the Wolves traded a player who was a poor fit for their team for one who should be a much better fit. Divorced from all concerns about draft pick position and contract, this is the Wolves doing one of the things a team needs to do to secure a rotation that can support an entire game of effort. Chase Budinger is back with the team now, rehabbing and shooting, so hopefully when he returns it will bolster the second unit further and we can begin to see a set of starters and steady rotation that will be less subject to big fluctuations in both offensive and defensive production.