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Sixers Tinder: Luc Mbah a Moute Makes Sense To Keep Around

Luc Mbah a Moute's defense makes him a valuable piece of the team's short-term puzzle.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The circumstances surrounding Luc Mbah a Moute's arrival in Philadelphia were less than ideal for the veteran forward. He was cap fodder as part of the deal that sent Thaddeus Young to Minnesota for Miami's top-ten protected 2015 first-round pick. But he outperformed any expectations that come with the "throw-in" label by leaps and bounds, and as the Sixers head back to the drawing table this summer, the team should consider bringing him back.

His defensive identity is what's made him stick in the league, and that's not without reason. He can defend multiple positions, and switched pick-and-rolls at the league's second-highest rate in the regular season, per Vantage. The Sixers switched at the highest rate in the NBA this season on both on and off-ball screens, especially prior to Carter-Williams' departure. They love to throw like-sized lineups on the floor and stifle defenses with switches, on par with the league's new age-y defensive trajectory (which has been popularized by Jason Kidd in Brooklyn and in Milwaukee).

(gif above via Jordan M. Foley of Vantage Sports)

The Sixers' defensive scheme values players of his physical stature (6-foot-8, 7-0.5 wingspan) with the ability to help collapse on ball-handlers in the paint, recover and provide rangy closeouts on the perimeter. Players defended by Mbah a Moute shot just 32.5 percent from deep on 166 attempts, so he certainly fits that profile. On a team that overachieved defensively, and in a system predicated on some of his greatest strengths, it'd be an understatement to say that he was useful for them this year.

The offensive side of things has always been more of a gray area for Luc. Playing n the league's worst offense, without any semblance of a real shot-creator until late February, definitely didn't do him any favors, either. But he still managed to make assuring strides.

He had the free reign to do things he was never accustomed to doing, and he grew more comfortable throughout the year, but the improvements he made shooting-wise were impressive. He'd taken just 86 threes over the course of his six-year career before he came to Philly, and he took 202 this season at an encouragingly passable 30.7 percent clip. As should be the case for most of the team's wing players, Joel Embiid's expected presence next season should open things up for spacing wise, so we have reason to believe he could do a tad better from beyond if he sticks around, even if teams already rarely defended his jumpers.

Sure, he disrupted the flow of the offense at times (I'd hesitate to even call the Sixers' offense an offense) with some ill-advised shots, and he got coaxed into taking too many long twos - 25.3 percent of his shot attempts came from between 16 feet and the three-point line. But that's what you get from an offense with no dimension and no shot-creators. Less-than-ideal shots are a given in any offense that scores 93 points per 100 possessions.

Some of his 636 field goal attempts definitely would have been better off going to a younger player who could use them more, but as the team continues to add talent, his shooting volume this season won't remain a constant.

Given his production, I think we tend to underestimate the value of a guy like Mbah a Moute in the locker room, too. Not so much in the sense of the exhaustive pro-veteran narrative - in the sense of having a fixture in the locker room who knows the system and actively wants to be there. If there are better options out there, he will, and should be on the way out. But condemning his presence just for the sake of youth purity is a pretty narrow approach.

All things considered, his status will be largely circumstantial. What direction the team decides to go in on draft night, and what the plans are for Jason Richardson, will determine whether or not he actually returns. But, nonetheless, Luc Mbah a Moute was a pleasant surprise this season. And also considering his mentor-apprentice relationship with Joel Embiid, who could decidedly benefit from some guidance upon his first minutes in the league, it makes sense to bring him back at a reasonable cost.

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