Eric Patten: A
Mbah a Moute returning to the Clippers is a testament to what he meant to them in his first go-around. The 10-year veteran used a training camp invite with the Clippers in 2015-16 to finish a career resurrection. Two years prior, at 27, he appeared on the verge of being out of the league. He struggled to find minutes across stops in Minnesota and Sacramento and shot 23.5 percent from 3-point range. But in 155 games in Los Angeles, Mbah a Moute proved a valuable defensive weapon, who had the size and tenacity to switch across multiple wing positions.
After shooting a career-best 39.1 percent from 3-point distance in 2016-17, he followed that up with a 36.4 percent effort on 2.8 attempts per game in Houston last year. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, in his season review of Mbah a Moute, quoted Chris Paul as saying, “Luc has been unbelievably important.” The Rockets were 27-4 when Mbah a Moute returned from his first shoulder injury, and he served as one five or six guys who were essential to a potential upset of the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. When he returned to the lineup, after sitting out all of Round 1, he was a shell of himself and was virtually unplayable against Golden State. Still, his presence on the Rockets was obvious, and his return to the Clippers certainly negatively impacts anything Houston wants to do with their defense and offensive spacing. Now, the Clippers get another year of that, plus needed veteran leadership. He’ll play a lot, probably at the 4 as much as the 3, and his importance will be measured not only on his performance in 15-20 minutes per night off the bench, but also how he slides into the starting lineup for stretches during the inevitable Danilo Gallinari bumps, bruises and boo-boos.
Kenneth Armstrong: A+
The Clippers bringing Luc back is my favorite move of the summer for several reasons. First, it brings back a player who was universally loved by Clips Nation and his former Clippers teammates. Second, it makes the team stronger, especially on defense. Third, the signing didn’t cost too much and maintains flexibility for the 2019 offseason. Finally, it made another Western Conference team weaker.
I was not happy when Luc signed with the Rockets, but it didn’t upset me too much because his signing came right after CP3’s decision. But, after Gallinari’s injury, it became clear that the Clippers were still cursed with bad luck at the small forward/wing position. Furthermore, the Blake trade and roster shuffling hasn’t definitively solved it. This move, which brings us a more productive and better all-around Luc than when we first met him in 2015, will hopefully kill the small forward curse.
Of the players the Clippers have on one year deals, Luc is the one I would want the Clippers to try and re-sign along with whatever big name player they (hopefully) acquire. So long as his shoulder stays healthy, I expect Luc to be the “glue guy” of this team.
Shapan Debnath: A-
Honestly, I probably still lean more towards the idea of playing our young players and not caring if we lose a lot of games. Luc does not really go along with that idea, but he does play positions of need. Also, after a certain point I’m just happy to see players I like on my team. Welcome home, Prince.
Robert Flom: B+
This is virtually the same grade I gave to Mike Scott (B), because both signings are quite similar. Luc is another veteran forward who will provide the Clippers with minutes far superior to anything they got out of their backup wings last year. His perimeter defense and outside shooting, in particular, are leagues above the Sam Dekker, Wes Johnson, and CJ Williams’ of the world. In the event that Tobias Harris or Danilo Gallinari (likely) misses some time with an injury, Luc is a perfectly capable stop-gap starter who should fit in well with the Clippers’ energetic and toughness-oriented ways. Luc is good, he’s an upgrade, and his value is fantastic at $4.3 million.
The issue, again, is the Clippers’ long-term purpose here. Luc is almost 32, and he’s an injury-prone 32 at that. Even if he helps them win a couple games this season, his presence alone isn’t enough to drag the Clippers to the playoffs in the tough Western Conference. And if one of Gallo or Harris misses an extended stretch, the Clippers are out of the playoff picture anyway. Essentially, he’s one more of the moves in the plan of “compete for the playoff this year and have cap space next summer”, and while that’s a direction I’m ok with, it wasn’t my ideal. Then again, at least Luc isn’t blocking the playing time of the Clippers’ youngsters, as Avery Bradley and Milos Teodosic are. Also, it will just be fantastic to see Luc wearing a Clippers’ uniform once more. He’s a fantastic teammate and locker room presence, and one of the most respected players in the NBA. Adding a player like that is never, ever a bad thing.
Max Jeffrey: A
When Luc Mbah a Moute left the Clippers last summer for Houston on a minimum deal, it was a huge loss. Arguably the best wing defender the Clippers have ever had, Mbah a Moute also shoots and drives just well enough to keep opposing defenses honest. Additionally, Mbah a Moute is great at pushing the pace in transition, which the Clippers should look to do often this season. Having Mbah a Moute back in a Clippers uniform feels sort of like a coup, especially given his salary, and he will likely play some very meaningful minutes this season.