The signing of Wesley Johnson to the full Mid-Level Exception prompted some uncomfortable questions: were the Clippers planning on rolling with Wes over Luc Mbah a Moute in 2017? Wes might be better all-around, but Luc was the only one who could defend at a high enough level to stick in the starting lineup. Re-signing Luc to the bi-annual exception was a relief for Clippers fans, as another incumbent rotation player returned.
Mbah a Moute played in 75 of the Clippers’ games last season, starting 61 and playing 17 minutes per game. Limited offensively, he averaged just 6.5 points and 0.8 assists per 36 minutes, while attempting just 40 threes on the season. Defensively, Mbah a Moute made his mark, serving as the Clippers’ all-around stopper on wings and forwards, and doing a stellar job in pick-and-roll defense against point guards.
Luc’s new 2-year deal is for the full bi-annual exception, which will pay him $2,203,000 this season. Next season he has a player option for $2,302,135. If he decides to opt out, the Clippers will have his early bird rights.
Let’s see the grades:
Lucas Hann: A. It’s a no-brainer when you can get a key rotation player to return at a position of weakness for such a low price. Even under the old salary cap, this would have been a bargain, but this deal is both a testament to Doc Rivers’ ability to lure players for cheap, and to Luc’s selflessness and dedication to this team. LRMaM isn’t without his flaws, but there’s no doubt that he’s a valuable defensive weapon for Doc Rivers’ arsenal.
Steve Perrin: A+. In this market, to get a player as useful a Mbah-a-Moute at the BAE is a bit amazing to me. (One assumes that Luc is looking at opting out next summer and getting a big raise with his early Bird rights, which makes sense. Of course, it would be illegal for the Clippers to promise him they'd do that, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)
Jonathan Hu: B+. Serviceable player that brings defense and hustle. He's (very) limited offensively, but a serviceable rotation piece for the price is great.
Robert Flom: A. Luc is a pretty solid rotation player who gave the Clippers great minutes last year. Re-signing him for the mere cost of the BAE is a coup of the highest order, one that Doc should have received much more widespread praise for. The only reason I don't give this an A+ is because I still don't like him starting, but that's just a tiny quibble.
Adithya: A-. It's great to have the prince back. Hopefully he'll continue to establish his royal authority on defense for the next two years. A+ if he's managed to make any improvement on his three-point shot.
Taylor Smith: A. Luc Mbah a Moute supplies the Clippers with some much needed defense on the wing. It would be preferable for him to come off the bench and/or be used situationally, but finding an upgrade with so little wriggle room was always going to be a tall order. His departure would've left the Clips scrambling for a capable replacement, so he's a good get.
Thomas Wood: A. Mbah a Moute is limited, but he knows it, and that's a nice quality. He's the only Clipper who's remotely capable of checking elite NBA small forwards, of which there are now many. I will continue to complain about his lack of offense, but the starters are so good that they make it work anyway. For that salary, I'll take his defense and live with the rest.