Luc Mbah a Moute geared to give Wolves a versatile defensive option
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It was a whirlwind 48 hours for Luc Mbah a Moute.
Given word Monday the Timberwolves had worked a deal to bring him in from Sacramento for former No. 2 pick Derrick Williams, Mbah a Moute had to quickly regroup and catch a ride to Minneapolis.
Two days later, after a delayed flight late Tuesday night and a mandatory slew of medical screening tests, Mbah a Moute was in a his new No. 12 jersey and on the Wolves' bench Wednesday night to watch his new team take on the Denver Nuggets.
Meeting with the media for the first time pregame, the cordial veteran forward seemed to still be taking it all in.
"Obviously surprised, but excited at the same time," Mbah a Moute said, recalling his reaction when he heard the trade news. "This is a good team, the direction they're moving forward to is exciting. And to be a part of it is special. So, hopefully I'll come here and do what I do best, and have a good time doing it."
What Mbah a Moute does best is defend, and that was what made him long-standing target for president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and the Wolves.
Mbah a Moute has a niche skill set, one that has carried him through his now six-year career. Not a potent scorer (6.8 ppg career average), the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward, uses a wide and aggressive defensive range to provide a stabilizing on-court presence.
The Wolves, with a bench that has struggled to find much semblance of cohesion this season, could use the help - a factor that peaked his interest as soon as he received the call from Saunders.
"Knowing that I can come in here and do that is also good, because I think that is something I enjoy doing," Mbah a Moute said. "Hopefully I can continue to do that here and at a high level."
Incorporating Mbah a Moute into the Wolves' rotation will take time, but on the surface it's easy to see him fitting coach Rick Adelman's current system better than Williams, given an ability to play both at power forward and out on the wing.
How and where Adelman factors Mbah a Moute in is to be determined. Adelman wasn't ready to make any statements on whether he sees the Wolves' new addition as a role player off the bench or as a possible starter.
"We're hoping he'll give us some versatility," Adelman said. "We're still searching for what's the best thing for that second group. We just haven't been consistent enough there, and on both ends of the court. Hopefully, we can start zeroing in on who we're going to play.
As Wednesday's frustration-inducing loss to Denver emphasized, the Wolves' second unit has fallen into a worrisome state after continued production woes.
Minnesota's bench was outscored 47-10 by the Nuggets, adding to the glaring energy lapses that the Wolves could never shake off. The Wolves rank last in the NBA in points allowed off the bench, while getting on average only 22.3 points from their reserves (No. 23).
Mbah a Moute may not provide much as far as scoring, but as Adelman quipped, if the Wolves' bench can't score, at the very least they may be able to come up with needed stops.
Mbah a Moute has the makeup of a player who won't have much issue adjusting to Adelman's approach, displaying a willingness to fill whatever role he is ask to.
"I remember defending, every time we played (Adelman's) teams," Mbah a Moute said. It was always really tough because the guys play in a system that allows a lot of options, a lot of cuts, and I think it's a great offense ... I think it keeps the defense on their toes. As a defender, it's hard to guard, and I can't wait to be a part of it now."
For now, the recent hectic pace Mbah a Moute has experienced isn't likely to slow down as he tries to learn on the fly. That means you can expect him to be going through plenty of game film and studying the playbook often in the next few days.
He did not play against the Nuggets, but with a full practice slated for Friday Mbah a Moute could get his first run with his new team Saturday when the Wolves travel to Dallas.