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Where Are They Now: Byron Mullens

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I take a look at the fascinating career of the ex-Clippers center.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Clippers’ Career:

Byron Mullens joined the Clippers in the summer of 2013 as a free agent, signing at the veteran’s minimum. In his previous season, in Charlotte, Byron had flashed the semblance of an outside shot, hitting 31.7% of his threes on 3.9 attempts per game. Doc Rivers craved a big man who could stretch the floor for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and thus, Byron was brought aboard. Unfortunately, Byron was a miss from the start. His outside shooting never developed, he was horrible defensively, and just didn’t bring much to the table outside of a few threes when his shot was falling. He cracked 20 minutes in a game just twice, and was traded to the 76ers after playing a mere 27 games in a Clippers’ jersey. The Clippers essentially just dumped him (this season was the start of “The Process”), receiving a heavily protected 2nd round pick (that never conveyed) in exchange. And thus, Byron’s Clipper career came to an end.

Rest of 2013-2014:

The Sixers were not trying to win games, and Mullens was still a young enough player at this point (24) to be part of Sam Hinkie’s auditioning process. He therefore played in 18 games with the Sixers down the stretch, receiving over double the minutes per game that he’d seen as a Clipper. He rewarded the Sixers with perhaps the strongest stretch of his NBA career (highest field goal % and 3 point %, and highest points per 36 minutes), but it wasn’t enough to win him a place on their upside-filled roster going forward. Even in 2013-2014 stretch big men needed to do more than just hit threes, and Mullens never proved he could do much else on the court at the NBA level. His defense was a particularly glaring weak spot, and probably the reason his NBA career ended that season.

2014-2015:

In July of 2014, Byron headed to international waters for the first time, signing with the Shaanxi Wolves of the Chinese National Basketball League, a level below the better-known CBA. In four games with the team, he averaged a staggering 30.8 points and 14.5 rebounds, with the rebounds especially coming as a surprise considering his weakness in that area. It makes sense, however, as playing in the Chinese equivalent of the D-League just a few months after playing in the NBA must have been an incredible gap in quality of play. Mullens signed with a CBA team, Shanxi, in August, but never played a game for them, with his next playing appearance occuring in February of 2015 when his rights were picked up by the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Byron played in 11 games for the Skyforce, putting up solid if unspectacular numbers.

2015-2016:

Mullens returned to Sioux Falls in November, and was with them for the majority of the 2015-2016 season. Unfortunately, Byron struggled mightily, with lower field goal, three-point, and free throw percentages compared to the year before, and seeing a correspondingly large dip in scoring as well. Shooting 38% from the field and 30.7% from three isn’t good in any league, and it’s even more surprising considering Mullens had put up superior numbers as a fresh-faced rookie over a half decade before. Nonetheless, Mullens played well enough to impress Torku Konyaspor, a team in the Turkish First League, as he joined them in February. Hilariously, while Byron hit 41% of his threes in his 9 games with Torku, he averaged a paltry 2.2 (!!!!!!!) rebounds in 20 minutes per game, a truly incredible number for a player who stands 7 feet tall. Perhaps that level of ineptitude on the boards is what led to his comparative fall from grace the following season.

2016-2017:

In October of 2016, Mullens signed a deal with Al Wasl Dubai of the UAE National Basketball League. His season there is a mystery. Even his own agency doesn’t have stats on his performance there, nor could I find anything on the interwebs about his stay there. I’m sure the UAE League is full of basketball players who would dominate on almost any pickup courts across the world, but still, this clearly isn’t even the Turkish or Chinese leagues (in terms of visibility), much less the NBA, and his presence there was a sign of how far Mullens’ career had fallen to this point. Fortunately, he was only present in the seeming “Dark Ages” for just this one season.

2017-2018:

Byron’s tour in the Middle East continued in 2017, as he signed with Sanat Naft Abadan of the Iranian Basketball Super League in October. He played well enough for Sanat, appearing in a mere 13 contests, and shooting 42.9% from the field. As usual, Mullens took a lot of threes, but hit on only 35.2% of those as well. Really, for a third-tier basketball league, one would expect better of an ex-NBA player still in his relative prime. However, Byron made his triumphant return to the G-League in February, when his rights were traded by Sioux Falls to the Lakeland Magic, and his year turned on a dime. He put together a dominant 11 game stretch with Lakeland, averaging 19.6 points and 11.1 rebounds while shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from three. Mullens even averaged 2.8 assists in his 30 minutes, a notable stat for a player who’s known for his gunning tendencies. G-League or no, those are some impressive numbers.

The Future:

Byron, awesomely, participated in the 2018 Summer League nearly a decade after he was drafted, suiting up for the Orlando Magic. He barely played in it however, probably being brought aboard just to provide some veteran mentorship and experience for the young’ns in Vegas. Still only 29 years old, Byron has many years of basketball ahead of him. With his overseas experience seeming to be mostly a flop, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Byron stick around the G-League in the coming seasons. He’s a good player at that level, and it keeps him close to the NBA, though nothing about his playing career indicates a return to the NBA is likely.

Byron seems almost exactly like the player he was with the Clippers over four years ago, possessing a desire to shoot a lot of threes despite being not all that great a shooter, and remaining a well below-average rebounder and defensive player despite his height. Really, the only difference would seem to be that he’s improved somewhat as a passer. Still, Mullens has had an interesting career playing in some exotic locales, and seems to have had a blast the whole way through.