Just before the NBA’s COVID-19 hiatus in March, the Houston Rockets brought in veteran forward Luc Mbah a Moute for a workout.
With a roster spot now open due to Thabo Sefolosha opting out of the NBA’s restart later this month in Florida, the timing is finally right.
As reported by The Athletic‘s Shams Charania, the Rockets plan to sign Mbah a Moute to fill Sefolosha’s vacant spot. Mbah a Moute has not played for an NBA team this season, so he is eligible for a playoff roster.
Best known for his defense, the versatile 6-foot-8 forward played 25.6 minutes per game with the Rockets in the 2017-18 season. He averaged 7.5 points, including 36.4% on 3-pointers. Houston went 65-17 as a team that year, which was by far the best mark in franchise history.
Mbah a Moute had a 101.7 defensive rating with the 2017-18 Rockets, which was best on the team among consistent rotation players.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 1, 2020
But Mbah a Moute dislocated his right shoulder twice during that season, with the latter incident occurring in the second-to-last game. That injury limited his availability and effectiveness in the playoffs.
Then, after signing with the Clippers before the 2018-19 season, a separate knee injury limited him to only four games. Now 33 years old, Mbah a Moute hasn’t played with any team in 2019-20, which means he’s played in just four NBA games over the last two seasons, combined.
Thus, between the normal aging curve for an NBA player and his own personal history with injuries, it’s not clear whether Mbah a Moute is still the same player physically as he was two seasons ago. But if healthy, Mbah a Moute would seem to be an ideal fit for the new frontcourt emphasis of the Rockets (40-24), who are prioritizing versatile defenders such as P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington ahead of traditional centers.
Mbah a Moute’s position versatility also lines up well with Sefolosha, making him a logical replacement as Houston fills out its bench. In fact, just before signing Sefolosha last September, reports indicated that the Rockets also had interest in Mbah a Moute for the same role.
Sefolosha wasn’t expected to be in the rotation once Houston’s 2019-20 season resumes on July 31, and the same will likely be the case for Mbah a Moute. But that prior stint means that head coach Mike D’Antoni knows him well — and if issues arise with injuries or health in Florida, having trusted veterans at the end of the bench could become very important.
I wouldn’t expect Luc Mbah a Moute to make a real impact for the Rockets, but if they need him he knows what to do. He knows the system. There’s a comfort level there, and that matters
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) July 1, 2020