Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Prince

The Milwaukee Bucks are currently the number 8 seeded team in the Eastern Conference. This assures them a playoff spot and the chance to sacrifice themselves in front of the mighty Miami Heat as LeBron and company coast towards their shot at the second title. Inevitable futility awaits the Bucks.

It's hard to argue that Milwaukee has much of a shot, but they do possess one thing that no other team does that could at least make things interesting. This is the 6-foot-8, Cameroonian force of defensive nature that is Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Luc flies under the radar mainly due to the fact that his offensive game is limited, but he's one of the better overall defenders the league has.

We'll start with the negatives. Mbah a Moute averages about 12.2 points per 40 minutes and shoots a 41/35.7/58.5 line while doing so. He's been a so-so rebounder this year and is a little turnover prone for a guy who isn't setting up much offense. These struggles on the offensive end keep him off the floor as Luc is only averaging 24.4 minutes per game. With a Milwaukee team that is 22nd in offensive efficiency, its hard to rail against the decision to try to garner a few more points while Luc sits.

Now to the good news. Mbah a Moute is an absolute terror on defense. From a subjective standpoint, he has an excellent ability to stay in front of the ball on the perimeter while not giving up too much strength if taken to the block. His awareness is also very good and is often in the right position to help on defense if a teammate needs it (and Jennings and Ellis usually do).

The numbers back him up as well. According to Synergy, Luc gives up 0.76 points per possession when he is defending. This ranks 36th overall among all players. He's also the 13th best when guarding the pick-and-roll ball handler, 22nd when defending post-ups, and the very best at eliminating shots off screens, only giving up 0.39 points per possession in these cases while opponents shoot just 16 percent. The 82games numbers like him, too, as he limits opposing 3s to an 8.6 PER. Of the three best defensive line-ups that the Bucks have played significant minutes this year, Mbah a Moute is a prominent member of two.

Nobody can truly be expected to stop LeBron James. He just doesn't have bad games anymore. However, if there's anyone who may be able to get in James' way long enough for the rest of his team to pick up the slack, it's Mbah a Moute. In Milwaukee's only win over the Heat, James still played impeccably, dropping 26 points on 11-20 shooting with 6 boards and 7 assists. However, he did cough the ball up 6 times and Mbah a Moute was able to pour in 19 points of his own while logging a plus-19 for the game.

Does any of this mean much? No, probably not. But in an Eastern Conference playoffs that seems ceremonial at this point, it would be nice to see the game's most elite player go against one of its elite defenders.

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