Heading into Monday night's game against the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers reserve big man Byron Mullens had one of the worst PERs in the NBA -- something in the neighborhood of negative six, if I recall correctly. Now, that had been compiled over the course of 24 minutes and two games (Mullens didn't get off the bench against the Lakers) -- so that's what you call a small sample size.
One game later, and Mullens PER is 9.7 -- a massive jump in a single evening. But that's the point here; things can fluctuate wildly when sample sizes are this small, and we shouldn't overreact either to terrible or good performances by a young seven footer or anyone else.
Mullens was 1-8 from the field before Monday; he made 5-6 against the Rockets, including a pair of three pointers. His effective field goal percentage, which had been .186, jumped all the way up to an above average .536 (league average eFG% last season was .496).
He remains very slow of foot defensively, which is a big problem in the pick and roll and when defending quicker opponents. But he's plenty big and did a decent job banging with Dwight Howard last night. In addition, to my eye he seems to have pretty decent defensive instincts -- his positioning is pretty good, he tends to be in the right spot. You can't teach quick, but you can teach smart.
What the Clippers get out of Mullens in the long term remains to be seen. He's certainly not going to shoot 100% (eFG%) in many games this season like he did last night. And hopefully he won't have many ohfer games either, although those are probably more likely.
He's probably the first big off the bench for the foreseeable future, and is going to get his chance to show what he can do. It figures to be painful along the way, but there's a chance that the Doc Rivers can turn him into a decent reserve. But let's wait until he's played a little more before drawing definitive conclusions -- say 100 minutes.