At a solid 6-8, 230 pounds, with quick feet developed while playing soccer in his native Cameroon, Luc Mbah a Moute was built to be an elite NBA defender. In his second year with the Milwaukee Bucks, the 23-year-old UCLA alum spent time in front of everybody from D-Wade to Dirk to Derrick Rose, and wrapped up his season with a playoff appearance and a couple of All-Defensive Team votes.
In Dime #57, Mbah a Moute made sure to credit his teammates for any praise he gets as a defender — “People watching think it’s all one-on-one, but they don’t see what’s going on behind you (as the defender),” he said — while breaking down his individual methods for defending the world’s best scorers:
“He shoots a lot of shots, but he takes good shots. They like to run him off screens, but he scores in transition, on the offensive glass, post-ups, lots of different things. He’s got that length at 6-10; most of the time he’s shooting over you and when you challenge the shot it doesn’t affect him. You have to get him off those elbow spots, make him take tough shots. Be very physical with him. Get a bump on him. Don’t let him get close to the key and contest his shots.”
“He has the ball in his hands 95 percent of the time. He brings the ball up and handles it in pick-and-rolls. He’s almost always gonna be in some kind of pick-and-roll situation, either with Shaq or with Varejao or with Jamison, and he does a good job attacking the rim. He’s so big and fast, and when he attacks it’s hard to get help. You have to do your job early and not let him get there. It’s the same thing: Get him off his sweet spots. He likes to drive a lot, but then he’ll back off and shoot threes if he can’t drive. What we try to do is make him a passer more than a scorer.”
“Ooh man, Carmelo is tough. He’s a mix of Kobe and LeBron because he takes tough shots like Kobe but he’s just as big and strong as LeBron. He’s very skilled and they run a lot of iso situations for him. What I try to do with him is be very physical and crowd him a lot, make him a driver. If you do that and you get help from somebody, sometimes he’ll get out of control.”
“He’s tough to guard because he’s got the whole package. He’ll go in the post, mid-post, shoot threes … he’ll have the ball in his hands coming off pick-and-rolls, coming off screens. He does things you’re not used to. He takes and makes big shots. Usually with Kobe you want to be very physical, use your length and just make it tough for him. If you do that, maybe he gets frustrated a little bit and tries to take too many tough shots.”
“He’s also got the ball in his hands most of the time. What makes D-Wade special is his change of speed. He’s one of the best in the game at getting to the rim and exploding at the point of attack. We try to cut off his drive as much as possible. He’s not a great three-point shooter, so try to make him take jump shots. You have to pick and choose when to be physical because he gets to the line so much, and make sure your whole team is behind you. When he drives, most of his points are and-ones and floaters and finishing at the rim. You want him taking jump shots all night.”
BRANDON ROY & JOE JOHNSON
“Those two guys are underrated scorers. People don’t talk about them as much as the others, but they definitely should be mentioned. Both of them are always in iso situations, usually from the elbow. B-Roy has such a quick first step and he can shoot. He’s very smooth and under control. Same with Joe, he’s always under control and tough to guard. You have to know their tendencies, what they like to do, what bothers them, what makes them uncomfortable. Get them out of their comfort zone, out of their rhythm.”
Who do you think is the toughest NBA player to stick 1-on-1?