The Case for Mbenga

Special thanks to Travis J. Rodgers for submitting his take to the Lakers Nation and giving us the rights to post it on the blog. Once again, if you have your own take and want to see it on TLN, feel free to e-mail it to us at Articles@theLakersNation.com.

When DJ Mbenga’s agent said that if things went well, Mbenga would be signed by either the Lakers or the Heat, he initiated a bit of speculation about what exactly his comments meant. A workout for Miami could hardly suddenly create interest for Mbenga’s presence back in the purple and gold. At the same time, if Mbenga were happy with some offer from the Lakers, he would not be working out for the Heat. So it seems as if the most likely scenario is that Mbenga has a lowball offer on the table from the Lakers and is looking to draw either a more significant offer from Miami (or possibly the same pay rate and more playing time) or to urge the Lakers to increase their offer if they intend to keep him.

The Lakers are probably asking themselves what Mbenga is worth. Specifically, they are probably asking whether he is worth anything more than the Veteran Minimum salary. It is worthwhile to look at the Lakers’ current lineup, gauge Mbenga’s skills, and determine whether he is worth only the Vet Min or whether he is worth more.

The first thing that should be said about Mbenga is that he is a raw talent. Although he spent parts of five seasons playing in Belgium, he has logged just 121 games in his NBA career and has started just two of those. This supports the suggestion that he is inexperienced. A quick look at his game when on court is sufficient to see that his hesitancy offensively and poor shooting success at the free throw line cement the deal. The second thing that should be said is that his ceiling is not very high. Mbenga is nearly 27 years old and while he has shown some growth, especially in the past season with the Lakers, one thing Mbenga has not shown is anything remarkable. When gauging the top end of a player, one looks for the exceptional performances, rare as they may be, not the more regular ‘solid’ performances. Think of the analogy with a stick of dynamite and a hammer. One big hit will detonate the dynamite; one hundred taps will not make a difference. A four-block game aside, Mbenga has not approached anything remarkable from a scoring, rebounding, or defensive point of view (see something on his defense below). Bearing these limitations in mind, it must be stressed that there is a pivotal role for a player like Mbenga in the NBA and specifically on a championship caliber team like the Lakers.

After noticing that Mbenga is raw, the observer will be drawn to the fact that his athleticism is undeniable. Mbenga moves quickly and fluidly on the court, has a lot of energy, good leaping skills, and has very quick feet. Meanwhile, offensively, it would be appropriate to say that Mbenga is limited. DJ takes a high percentage of jump shots and while his effective field goal percent is not bad for a Center, it is not all good news. His range is limited to perhaps ten feet from the basket so he fails to draw opposing Centers out of the lane and create paths to the hoop. If his 44 career free throw attempts are any indication of his shooting ability, Mbenga is a poor shooter (just under 57% in his career). Despite his athleticism, Mbenga is too tentative to attack the rim. He may also not have the handles. Despite all this, it would not be quite right to say that Mbenga is wholly incompetent offensively. Despite not playing many minutes and so not having the benefit of finding a rhythm, DJ averaged nearly one point per three minutes because his speed up and down the court allows him to get off attempts when defenders slack against him.

Defensively, Mbenga’s tools are impressive, but his execution is lacking. There is no doubting his effort and sometimes the results are impressive. He has, for instance, averaged one block per 11 or 12 minutes, which is impressive. But while the block numbers look good, they are almost all athleticism blocks. In other words they are the kind of block a defensive coach merely tolerates as opposed to celebrates. At seven feet tall, 255 pounds, and with little body fat, Mbenga has the build to be a brute on the defensive end. Yet he is nothing of the sort. Mbenga uses his speed and athleticism too much, refusing to body up regularly. The results are yielding too many rebounds, picking up too many fouls, and giving too much confidence to players who have no business attacking a player with Mbenga’s physical attributes.

What would be interesting for Mbenga would be to see him work against Andrew Bynum regularly. Bynum is one of the biggest players in the game and may be stronger than Mbenga. Mbenga could benefit from having a player like Bynum, who has an offensive game, attacking regularly. Mbenga must use his weight to slow the attack and make the attacker spend some energy. The same move when on offense, using his weight to back down defenders, would tire his opponent. With the speed he possesses, Mbenga could find himself getting more easy buckets as he faces a tired defender.

While this may all be academic, as no signing information has been mentioned, one has to be pleased with the prospect of returning a player with half a season of triangle experience, loads of energy, and athleticism. With just Chris Mihm as a true Center backing up Andrew Bynum, Mbenga would be a great investment. Bynum missed 47 games last season and Mihm has averaged just 11.5 games per season over the last two. So there is no question that a third Center would have a role on the team. With Phil Jackson, the triangle experience is often the make or break point for a player addition. His potential for becoming a solid defender and scoring in transition should make him a Laker next season. The question seems to be money, if the words of Mbenga’s agent ring true, but competing offers seem lacking. Look for Mbenga to wear purple and gold next season.

Jaime is the co-owner and Operating Director for LakerNation.com from Alhambra, CA. He's help create the official websites for Kevin Durant and Goodwin Sports. Currently, he's the Online Producer for FOX Sports Radio and AM570 KLAC.
  • pio2u

    Hook Mbenga up, purple & gold looks good on him. I think he stays!

  • pio2u

    Hook Mbenga up, purple & gold looks good on him. I think he stays!

  • showtime2k9

    Just give me players who work hard and don’t make excuses and the pieces will fall into place.

  • lakrfan4life

    Taco! keep him!!!

  • Mitch4Pres

    re sign big homie i like his hustle

  • Hugo Boss

    Keep Mbenga!

    Colorado loves the Lakers!

  • jessica alba

    keep him hes cute
    <3

  • Michael_23

    He’s worth more than Kwame Brown I can tell you that! But we can’t give him 4 mil a year. (I think that’s what Kwame got with the Pistons)

  • The Mamba

    Sign my boy Mbenga! I think he wants a ring,so he will resign!

  • David

    Who cares about Mbenga. He’s nothing more than a bench warmer.

  • http://thelakersnation.com kb24 4life

    keeeppp DJ …
    dacooo!!!!!

  • yellowpurplefever

    Keep Daco for a buck and change 1.4 (NBA talking) . Small change for Buss. He can totally do Daco commercials for Jack in Box at Stapples.

  • http://www.otrbasketball.com/forums/ Nissan

    Good job tr.

    Bring back Dacos!

  • http://www.deluxpro.com BuyLakersTickets

    I say we keep him, but if we are saving money for someone else.. namely a bigger star, then let him go. LOL

  • T-Mack

    I’m tired of this crap. If he wants to stay down w/the Lakers and get his hands on a ring, which we will more than likely get this year barring injuries, then mmmmmokay. BUT if not then he can take his butt down to Miami and fight just to get a playoff spot just to lose in the 1st round. Maybe 2nd round if Wade has a hella series.

  • xtro

    u never know if u will need a big man. mihm is brittle as a peanut.

  • DCLAKER

    KEEP’EM!!

    WEWANTDACOS.com,if Phil would’ve played’em,we probably had a chance for game 7.

  • tupac the don

    SICK putback dunk by mbenga over camby.

  • MILO

    [Comment ID #49906 Will Be Quoted Here]

    mihm is fu-ck-en trash, garbage a useless mf!!!

  • Geloman

    You know the Laker offseason is really boring and lifeless when anything written on DJ MBenga makes it to the top of the page. LMAO!

  • DCLAKER

    True dat,Geloman.

  • jonathan

    Who cares about Mbenga?

  • Zen Master

    [Comment ID #49913 Will Be Quoted Here]

    Watch your mouth there. If anybody is a “mf,” it’s probably you because your the one saying it. Many fans, not just Laker fans, are expect too much out of their favorite teams. When their teams are doing good, the fans ride which ever band wagon that exists at the time. When a team does bad or a player gets injured, you rip at them like they don’t belong in their respective professional leagues.

    What a shame. I hate people who forget what some of the Laker players did after the Shaq trade.

    If most of you have forgotten already, Mihm was considered a solid center in 04-05 & 05-06 seasons until he went down with dat nasty ankle injury. How can you criticize a player for being “trash” or “a piece of shit” when he hasn’t got a chance to prove himself because of injuries! Sure, you are going to say, “Well, as a major league athlete, he should be healthy most of the time.” I say this: an NBA season is an 82 game season with 48 minutes per game. Some players just get lucky and rarely ever get hurt. Some have bad luck so they have more injuries. Yes, it has to do with overall strength, but 82 games times 48 minutes is a hell lot of minutes for injuries to happen.

    One last note. Perhaps those of you who are cursing haters might wanna go twist/sprain your own ankles by landing on a foot following a 30 inch jump? Then lets see how long you will need to get back to play pickup ball. If you don’t wanna do that, then don’t rip on players that tend to have more injuries!

  • http://www.bybus.net/gphoto/howard-and-beautiful-girl-46 Howard and beautiful girl

    he is worth anything more than the Veteran Minimum salary

  • Geloman

    Forget DJ. Lakers need to go after Carl Landry. Rockets are moving on without him. Offer part of the MLE or something. This guy’s a tough, gritty player who’ll do the dirty work. Him and Powell can play the PF/C positions.

  • DCLAKER

    I heard the same thing last night…MITCH,HERE YOU GO ON A SILVER PLATTER!!

  • JoDaddi

    Let him go..He is a journeyman at best. If he’ll take what hey offer, fine…otherwise packem up and we’ll catch you later bro…

  • http://TheVerveNerve.com Billy Kupchak

    [Comment ID #49992 Will Be Quoted Here]

    Yeah!:D Carl Landry is much MUCH better than DJ