Playing a career-low 14.7 minutes per game, Timberwolves forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's 0.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per 48 minutes were his lowest averages since 2008.
Brace Hemmelgarn/Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
This is the second in a 14-part series evaluating each Timberwolves player’s performance during the 2013-14 season.
Playing for a mostly dismal Milwaukee franchise the first five years of his career had to be frustrating at times for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. But in a way, it also spoiled him.
This season, the defensive-minded power forward and village prince from Cameroon found out what it’s like to play for a Western Conference team that wishes to be considered a playoff contender. His minutes dropped, as did his production following a trade from Sacramento to Minnesota in exchange for Derrick Williams.
"It hasn’t lived up to expectations," Mbah a Moute told FOXSportsNorth.com in March. "It’s been tough. It’s part of the job. It’s not always gonna be pretty."
On a team that never really established an identity this season, Mbah a Moute stayed lost in the shuffle.
When Saunders traded Williams, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, to the Kings in a straight-up exchange for Mbah a Moute, the former Timberwolves coach told the locals he’d serve as the backup defensive stopper to starting small forward Corey Brewer. Mbah a Moute’s dimensions — 6-foot-8, 230 pounds — and track record suggest he’s able to defend the wing and the post. But the six-year veteran wasn’t on the floor enough to have a profound defensive impact. Playing a career-low 14.7 minutes per game, his 0.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per 48 minutes were his lowest averages since the Bucks drafted him 37th overall in 2008. Moreover, he had few pronounced performances where he came in and shut down an opposing team’s top scorer.
When you’re on a roster that includes Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Dante Cunningham, there aren’t going to be many rebounds to go around. But Mbah a Moute did a fine job clearing out and grabbing boards when called upon, averaging 7.1 rebounds per 48 minutes. His 2.2 boards per game were a career low, but that’s largely a result of his minimal minutes. Rebounding is largely an effort and strength game, and Mbah a Moute exhibited both, albeit in limited action.
No one, not even Saunders himself, expected Mbah a Moute to show up in Minneapolis and pour in 15 points a night. But even the high-percentage shots he’s wont to take haven’t gone in at an effective clip the past couple of years. This season, he shot 54 percent from inside the restricted area — an improvement from last season, but nowhere near the near-60-percent marks he’s posted in the past. Mbah a Moute doesn’t have much range, yet he’s not quite long and muscular enough to compete for post points at an effective rate.
Folks who cover the Bucks on a regular basis call Mbah a Moute one of the nicest, most amiable guys they’ve ever dealt with. It’d be tough for any Timberwolves beat reporter to claim the opposite extreme, but it became more and more apparent as the season wore on he wasn’t happy with his diminished role and limited minutes. What Mbah a Moute did do, according to some of his locker room mates, is help encourage fellow Africa native Gorgui Dieng and his fellow rookies, becoming somewhat of a bench leader. But Mbah a Moute didn’t make $4.6 million solely to counsel, and he’d be the first to acknowledge that. With one more year on his contract worth $4.4 million, there may be an increased workload available for him, depending what happens with Cunningham. The No. 2 power forward becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, and there’s a good chance the team won’t bring him back after two late-season arrests.