What you need to know about Luc Mbah a Moute

Luc Mbah a Moute chases down a loose ball against Nick Young. (Photo: Keith Allison)

Yesterday, the Sacramento Kings traded for Luc Mbah a Moute in a exchange for a future second round pick from the Milwaukee Bucks.  With five years of NBA experience under his belt, Mbah a Moute will likely be called upon by new coach Michael Malone to fill the Kings’ long-standing void at small forward.

Is he a long-term solution?  Who knows.  But because of his reputation as a versatile wing and post defender, he certainly has the potential to address a troublesome area that’s hampered the Kings for quite some time.  Here’s what you need to know about the soon-to-be King.

  • From point guards to power forwards, Mbah a Moute’s defensive strengths lie in his ability to defend multiple positions.  He talked about defending some of the league’s elite players in a 2011 piece for TrueHoop.  For example, Mbah Moute said that getting physical with LeBron James is the best way to defend the now two-time NBA champion.  “LeBron is a lot like a point guard playing around with the ball and making decisions. If you get into his face, you make him do what you want instead of having him play you. A lot of guys still back off him a little bit because they don’t want to get in that physical battle. That’s a mistake. The best way to play him is to crowd him, get in his face, make sure he doesn’t get to the basket and contest his jump shots.” (TrueHoop, May 2011)
  • Before last season, Steve von Horn of SB Nation’s BrewHoop broke down Mbah a Moute’s defensive prowess against some the NBA’s top offensive performers.  His analysis took into account Mbah a Moute’s performances against players like Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant over a a three-year period.  “So far I’ve found that ISO-heavy players have struggled to produce when matching up with Luc, while the best performer (Danny Granger) had the luxury of using stagger screens and off-ball motion to free himself up for spot-ups and open looks.” (BrewHoop, October 2012)
  • Mbah a Moute may be known as a top-flight defender when healthy, but his offense is another story.  Take for example his 3-point shooting.  He’s made just 20 of 69 attempts in five seasons in the NBA.  Last year, he set a career-high – a paltry 13 three-point makes on 37 attempts.  When Mbah a Moute hit the free agent market in 2011, NBA.com’s David Aldridge spoke to league insiders about the veteran forward’s value.  “‘Top five [defender] at his position, plus (he) can guard fours with range,’ a head coach opined this weekend. ‘Very competitive.’ But, the coach added, having Mbah a Moute on the floor necessitates having other shooters on the court with him, unless you want to play three on five at the offensive end.” (NBA.com, December 2011)
  • Mbah a Moute eventually rejoined Milwaukee after the Bucks matched a four year, $19-million offer sheet extended by the Denver Nuggets to the then 25-year-old forward.  And if you’re wondering – yes, Kings new general manager Pete D’Alessandro was part of that Nuggets’ regime.  “‘I love playing with Luc,’ (former Bucks-turned-Warriors center Andrew) Bogut said. ‘People always question his offensive liabilities, but the guy still averaged six or seven points and five rebounds a game. Most importantly, he’s on their best player every game. I read last night online he’s the best on ball defender, not just me saying it, but statistically someone did a stat and he’s the best on ball defender in the league.'” (Bucksketball, December 2011)
  • Since signing that deal however, Mbah a Moute has been plagued by injuries.  In the first season under his new contract, the veteran forward played in only 43 of 66 possible games due to tendinitis in his right knee.  He underwent surgery in the spring of 2012 to address the problem, but it kept him sidelined until December of last year.  “‘I’m just figuring it out man,’ he said. ‘I haven’t played basketball in eight months. I haven’t practiced, anything. I’ve just been playing games. I’ve played basketball four times in eight months. I got a long way to go.'” (Bucksketball, December 2012)
  • In his most recent campaign, Mbah a Moute played in just 58 games in the regular season.  A combination of health problems – turf toe, recovery from surgery to his right patella and illness – made for the worst season in the 26-year-old forward’s career.  “But watching Mbah a Moute can be a bit sad this season. He doesn’t seem to have the same explosion or foot speed that’s made him such a versatile defender. It’s evident when he barely clears the rim when trying to dunk. It’s evident on missed layups. It isn’t so obvious when he’s defending, but how could it affect him on one end and not the other?” (Bucksketball, April 2013)
  • Not only is Mbah a Moute a native of Cameroon, he is also a prince.  He is the son of a chieftain from a village near Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital city. “When people hear you are a prince they think of Eddie Murphy and [1988 movie] “Coming to America,” which is totally not true,” he explains. “My dad is just the chief of my village, it’s not like Zamunda or the crazy things you see in the movie — I don’t have my face on the money but you get treated with respect and have ceremonies.” (CNN.com, March 2012)
  • Mbah a Moute is the first alumnus of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program to successfully make it to the league.  In 2009, he returned to Cameroon as counselor of the program.  “What were the odds for Mbah a Moute’s even being chosen to attend the first such camp in 2003 as a gangly 16-year-old from Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital? He didn’t play basketball until age 14, when he and his twin, Emmanuel Bidias a Moute, began shooting at a backboard and rim on a streetlight pole in the Etoa-Meki neighborhood of central Yaoundé. Within two years, Mbah a Moute was the best youth player in his country, with an invitation for the N.B.A. camp at the American International School of Johannesburg. There, an African legend, Dikembe Mutombo, schooled him on the manly art of boxing out and moving on. Three weeks later, Mbah a Moute boarded a plane to Central Florida to attend prep school at Montverde Academy, on his way to a scholarship and a three-year run at U.C.L.A.” (New York Times, September 2009)


Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.

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