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Russell Westbrook, Luc Mbah a Moute, Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden, Rockets

How Luc Mbah a Moute can help the Rockets in NBA restart after Thabo Sefolosha’s dropout

The Houston Rockets were quick to reshuffle their roster on Wednesday.

Veteran swingman Thabo Sefolosha announced he was opting out of the NBA restart in Orlando. The Rockets—now allowed a replacement player—signed Luc Mbah a Moute shortly thereafter.

Sefolosha made 41 appearances for the Rockets during the regular season, and he averaged just over two points and two rebounds per game. However, the Swiss native gave the Rockets a strong defensive presence on the wing, averaging 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per 36 minutes.

The question now becomes: what will Mbah a Moute bring to the table?

Ideal for small ball?

At first glance, Mbah a Moute looks like a perfect fit for Houston’s small-ball system.

The 33-year-old became more comfortable expanding his range to the perimeter in the latter stages of his career, including his last stint with the Rockets.

Mbah a Moute appeared in 61 games for Houston during the 2017-18 season, shooting over 36 percent from beyond the arc on 2.8 attempts per game. His familiarity with James Harden and coach Mike D’Antoni’s system also gives him an advantage because he knows how the offense operates.

Sure, the addition of Russell Westbrook has made for a unique change, but Houston’s offense is still predicated on spacing. Mbah a Moute can play an undersized four-man who can operate in pick-and-pop and hunt for threes on the perimeter.

While Mbah a Moute is not the most prolific rebounder (something Sefolosha did well in limited minutes), he can still provide something on the glass and serve as another body.

Defensive playmaker

Mbah a Moute is not quite the same kind of defensive stalwart as Sefolosha, nor is he as physical.

However, he can still make plays in the passing lanes. Mbah a Moute averaged 1.2 steals in his last stint with the Rockets. He also posted his second-best defensive box plus-minus margin (+1.4) over the course of a full season.

Granted, the aforementioned Rockets team was far stingier defensively. That squad had Chris Paul harassing opposing point guards and Clint Capela manning the paint. Both players are gone, with the Rockets now relying on their quickness and ability to switch.

That said, Mbah a Moute can step in and give Houston some playmaking on the defensive end of the floor, even if in short bursts.

Depth

This is hardly a splashy move. None of the players signed over the course of this week are going to put their respective teams over the top, per se.

But finding a “replacement player” naturally hints at signing someone who offers a similar skill set. The Rockets will hope Mbah a Moute can give them even more shooting while at least approaching Sefolosha’s levels of activity and productivity on the defensive end of the floor.