Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

LeBron James, Kevin Durant et al. vs. Bucks F Luc Mbah a Moute

Exploring NBA perimeter defense by looking at how Luc Mbah a Moute performed against LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Danny Granger, Joe Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce. An introduction to the experiment.

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Kobe Bryant suffers dip in efficiency vs. LRMAM

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has shared the court with Milwaukee Bucks defender Luc Mbah a Moute for over 100 minutes over the past three seasons, and Mbah a Moute has left Kobe with little to show for his efforts.

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Granger than fiction: Pacers SF handles LRMAM well

Indiana Pacers SF Danny Granger has done something LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony have not over the course of the last three seasons: he has played well against Milwaukee Bucks SF Luc Mbah a Moute.

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Carmelo Anthony struggles to score well vs. LRMAM

New York Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony doesn't score well when Milwaukee Bucks forward Luc Mbah a Moute shares the floor with him. Luc's legend continues to grow.

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Thunderstruck: Kevin Durant vs. Luc Mbah a Moute

Milwaukee Bucks F Luc Mbah a Moute has done an excellent job on Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant over the last three seasons.

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Luc Mbah a Moute defense study release schedule

Our breakdown of Luc Mbah a Moute's defensive impact on top NBA wing scorers like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Antony and others will be updated often over the next two weeks.

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LeBron James vs Luc Mbah a Moute (Defensive Study)

LeBron James. Luc Mbah a Moute. NBA superstar. NBA superstar (perimeter) defender. Two men enter. Only one man will survive the battle. Okay, both men will survive the battle. In fact, 10 men will enter and all of them will survive the battle, but that gets back some of my frustrations in evaluating perimeter defense from the introductory piece.

What are you doing?

I've combined three seasons worth of stats for each player in a select group of top-end perimeter scorers (LeBron James in this edition), and compared production levels to when Luc Mbah a Moute is on the court with that player. The assumption is that LRMAM is often matched up against that player, or that he makes a direct impact on that player's production. If we can't assume that much, what's an ace perimeter defender good for anyways?

What does it mean?

The sample size for each on-court "matchup" is too small to be predictive of future performance -- LRMAM and LeBron have shared the court for 249 minutes (more than five full games) over the last three years -- so the findings are merely descriptive. In other words, this is a strict evaluation of what has already happened, not any grand pronouncement that future matchups will proceed along the exact same lines. The data here is fit to answer the question: how has LRMAM impacted LeBron James' performance when they have shared the court over the last three seasons.

What did you find?

In addition to crunching the numbers, I watched a lot of video clips of LeBron vs. LRMAM as well. Two things stuck out to me while watching those plays:

  1. LRMAM has the length to bother LeBron on jumpshots, but also brings the quickness to cut off premium angles on drives. He typically crowds James on the perimeter to force him into difficult situations once the ball is put on the floor.
  2. In iso plays, the most common successful defensive outcomes I witnessed were: (a) LRAMAM cut off the driving angle and forced LeBron into a tough pull-up from mid-range, (b) LRMAM forced LeBron to give up the ball before he wanted to by cutting off his driving angle, or (c) LeBron fought hard to get the edge on a drive, but to get around LRMAM he had to accelerate going either slightly away from the rim or directly into shot-blocker extraordinaire Andrew Bogut. Last season LRMAM felt Bogut's absence, and LBJ's conversion rate at the rim spiked, but perhaps Samuel Dalembert can fill that role.

Here are the actual numbers, presented in infographic form to spice things up (click to enlarge):

Lrmam_lebron_large

Finally, I've included a clip that I think represents LRMAM's approach on LeBron:

Lrmam_medium

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In defense of NBA defense: an intro to uncertainty

Exploring NBA perimeter defense by looking at how Luc Mbah a Moute performed against LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Danny Granger, Joe Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce. An introduction to the experiment.

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