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2018-19 Clippers Exit Interview: Luc Mbah A Moute

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This was a really weird season for Luc.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Key Information:

Name: Luc Mbah A Moute

Age: 32

Years in NBA: 11

Position: Small forward/Power forward

Key Stats: In 4 games with the Clippers, Luc averaged 5.0 points, 1.8 rebounds, .5 assists per game in 15.3 minutes. Splits: .444/.333/.000

2018-2019 Salary: $4,320,500

Future Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent

Summary:

Luc’s Clippers career has been pretty weird. During Lob City, he was a token starter on the wing who was mostly played for his superior defense and decent three point shooting. His overall production was fairly low, and his meager offerings at small forward was considered one of the reasons why Doc’s tenure as a front-office was iffy: he didn’t seem to be a starting caliber wing in the modern NBA. I mean just take a look at his stats in 2015-16 when he started 61 games for L.A.: 3.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and .4 assists on .454/.325/.526 splits. He did improve in 2016-17, nearly doubling his ppg (6.1), and shooting above 50 percent from the field, but it was still hard to justify him being a starter on a team that had Finals aspirations.

LMAM left L.A. and joined Chris Paul in Houston on a one-year-deal in 2017-18, and of course had one of the best seasons of his career after leaving the Clips. He was looked at as an essential member of a Houston team that had the best record in the NBA last season. He averaged 7.5 points a game and tied a career high with 1.2 steals a game, all while shooting very nice splits of 48.1% from the field and 36.4% from three (2.8 attempts per game).

Along with Trevor Ariza, Luc was a part of a defensive wing set that helped bring the Rockets to the brink of the NBA finals. A hitch last season came in the form of a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the beginning of the playoffs and 21 games of the regular season. This was one in a long list of injuries that have hampered Luc throughout his career, one in which he has played more than 75 games only four times over 11 years.

Despite these injuries, the Clippers decided to take a one-year flyer on Luc this past offseason in a move that registered positively in Clips and NBA circles. Luc is still a great defender and, when healthy, an adequate shooter who can get you some points here and there. He’s also a great veteran locker room presence with L.A. ties and knowledge of the Clippers franchise. After the year he had in Houston, the addition of Luc was smart given the influx of young guys the Clips brought on and the lack of depth at the three/four.

Everything looked pretty normal for Luc after four games to start the season. He was averaging five points a game and made some key shots and stops against the OKC Thunder and Houston Rockets, which resulted in unexpected early season wins. He was a combined +23 in those two games and looked like he was playing the role the front-office wanted, an eighth/ninth man who provided defense and a couple jumpers. In the fourth game of the season, a loss against the New Orleans Pelicans, Luc played 17 minutes and contributed five points and three boards. He didn’t leave the game early due to injury but the next day it was reported that Luc had a left knee injury and was “out indefinitely”. That’s fine, right? Just take a week off, recover and we’ll see you again soon?

Just read this article to see what happened next. Essentially, Luc “teased us” with Twitter posts saying he was coming back. The coaching staffs answers ranged from “he’s close” to “we don’t know.” He was back on the bench post All-Star break, looking ready to finally get back in the rotation, but we never saw him again. After undergoing what was described as a “partial medial meniscectomy” on his left knee, Luc’s season was over after four games and a lot of mixed signals on his availability. Subsequently, on April 7, the Clippers waived Luc to make room for another roster spot (that ended up being Rodney McGruder). A weird (maybe?) end to a Clippers career that I’m not entirely sure is totally up just yet…

Strengths:

Luc is an average three-and-D type that is more the latter than the former. A long 6’8”, Luc is always good for some strong defense and has a keen ability to get into passing lanes and keep his man in front despite his age and fragility. He can guard positions 2-4 seamlessly and usually will take on an elite member of the other team. He was stuck on guys like Paul George, James Harden and Julius Randle earlier this season, and did solid work. This is a role that he has inhabited since his days with the Milwaukee Bucks, and will continue to do so if he gets picked up this summer.

Sadly, injuries have affected his output, as his numbers have been fairly inconsistent throughout his career. He has good touch inside and from the short corners and has always been a team first guy. He likes to post up in the corner and wing for his jumpers: this was his and Chris Paul’s bread-and-butter on the drive and dish during the “Lob City” era. He is a streaky shooter, but can definitely get hot and knock down some jumpers when open. I truly believe that if it wasn’t for injuries throughout his career, Luc would have been a high-level three-and-d guy who could put up around 12 points a game. For now, however, it looks as though his body is breaking down on him, and that he is on a significant downturn.

Luc also had a huge role in Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam’s path to the NBA. Pretty cool.

Weaknesses:

Staying healthy has been a concern his whole career, and at age 32, is his most glaring weakness right now. It’s going to be an interesting offseason for Luc, as he will be 33 before the start of next season and is coming off a season where a sore knee -- not a tear, or sprain -- held him out all year. What’s his market? Probably a vet minimum somewhere for a team that can use 10-12 minutes of solid defense and a three pointer here and there.

Luc could also hugely benefit from a more consistent open jumper. While he flirted with shooting 40 percent from three with L.A. in 2016-17, his career percentage is only 33.5 percent. With his nimbleness waning due to injury, Luc could still be effective with a knock down three-point shot. If I had a nickel for every time Luc missed an open three from a CP3 pass in the corner, I’d have a lot of nickels. I might even have enough to pay for comedy writing lessons to make that joke better.

Future with the Clippers:

Despite all of this, I actually could see L.A. looking at LMAM again this offseason for a veteran minimum. When healthy, Luc is serviceable and knows this franchise really well. With guys like Patrick Beverley, JaMychal Green, Wilson Chandler, and Garrett Temple being unrestricted free agents, having depth at the wing/guard positions is imperative. If Kawhi Leonard or KD (or maybe both) end up coming, having a guy like Luc on the floor with the 2nd unit actually isn’t that bad of an idea for depth purposes. It truly all depends on if LMAM is in shape this summer. If his knee is 110 percent (I honestly want to see more than 100 percent on that), Clippers fans should have no qualms with having him back on a cheap deal for depth.

Will this happen? Probably not. Luc’s one-year-deal was a failed experiment that admittedly was low-risk for a potentially pretty high reward, but Frank Lawrence and company could use that money elsewhere this summer. Re-signing guys like Temple, Green, Pat and even McGruder should be priorities ahead of Luc, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Final season grade: D-

Giving him an F here would be mean, and because of his play in two important early season wins against Houston and OKC, he gets a D-. In reality, giving Luc an N/A would make more sense based on his lack of play this year (I had trouble even finding a picture of him in a Clippers uniform this season). He wasn’t able to accomplish much of anything this season, which stinks because L.A. could have really used his wing depth and defense. When L.A. was struggling around the trade deadline, the defense of LMAM would have been a huge help, and would have helped supplant some of the unnecessary Avery Bradley minutes. I’m still in shock that a SORE knee kept him out forever, but hey, it is what it is.