FB&G continues is player reviews for this past season with DJ “Congo Cash” Mbenga. For a link to DJ’s exit interview, check out Phillip’s post from right after the season concluded.
SEASON IN REVIEW:
Last season the Lakers only carried 13 players. And of those 13 players, DJ Mbenga was either the Lakers 12th or 13th man on any given night depending on match ups or how Phil was feeling on that day when deciding which player would be inactive. When the Lakers roster was completely healthy, DJ would often suit up but would only see playing time in blow outs or as a random spark off the bench when Phil (seemingly) felt his big body could make a difference in that particular game. So, when considering all of these factors it’s actually a little tough to gauge how good a season DJ actually had.
Statistically, Mbenga had the type of season you’d expect from a 3rd string Center and 5th big man. In his 49 game appearances (a career high, by the way), he averaged about 2 points and 2 rebounds a game. He shot a relatively low percentage from the field (46.6%) and was pretty bad from the foul line, making only 9 of his 19 attempts on the season (47.4%). So far, this is exactly what we should all expect from DJ considering his role and what was asked of him on the court.
Putting his stats aside for a moment, I can easily say that I liked how DJ worked to improve his game in this past season. He started to show better range on his jumpshot and looked more comfortable overall on offense. On defense, while he still went for the blocked shot too often for my tastes, he did serve as an impediment to guards that drove to the basket and was as active as ever on that side of the ball. His rebounding rates were average at best (and that’s being kind) as his want to block shots moved him away from prime rebounding position on the defensive side of the ball. But overall, he showed some improvement from the completely raw player that joined the Lakers as a mid season pick up three years ago.
That said, I really wouldn’t call this season a success for Mbenga. While he played in a career high 49 games, his minutes per game and per 36 minute production actually fell from his previous seasons in LA. Plus, even though both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum missed 17 games (giving an opportunity for the 3rd string Center to get more run), Mbenga was often passed over for minutes by Josh Powell as the the Lakers elected to go small with an Odom/Powell front court for many nights where their big man depth was tested (or play whichever big man was healthy heavy minutes to compensate raither than playing DJ more). Not to mention the fact that when Andrew Bynum suffered his torn meniscus during the playoffs, Phil actually deactivated DJ for a few games and instead dressed Adam Morrison, citing the fact that after he sustained a couple of eye/head injuries during practice that DJ was not as tuned into the action as he needed to be.
PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON:
Considering DJ’s lack of burn over the course of the season, it’s not that easy to find a game in which DJ truly had an impact performance. However in an early April contest against the T’Wolves, Mbenga did have his season high in points (11) while also grabbing 2 offensive rebounds and blocking 2 shots in 14 minutes. Based off the highlights, you can see that he moved well off the ball, showed some diversity on offense, and defended the rim well.
DJ has yet to sign on with another team and his return to the Lakers is pretty much out of the question after LA signed Theo Ratliff to a one year deal. And with DJ reportedly looking for more minuteson whatever team he plays for next year, his return would have surprised me even if the Lakers hadn’t signed Ratliff. However, wherever DJ plays next year I wish him well. He’s a marginal NBA player, but he’s a legit 7’0″ big man in a league that covets size and I’m sure he’ll find a gig by the time NBA training camps begin. So, thank you for the contributions DJ and nothing but the best to you.
Mbenga has nearly avg’d 6 fouls per 36 over his career. His replacement, Theo Ratliff? 4 fouls per 36.
A lower foul rate should prevent opponents from scoring more efficiently, and set the table for the starters to finish off games without being in the penalty, more often than not. Definitely an improvement.
off-topic: i wondered about how many teams we’ll be playing who will be on the 2nd night of a back-to-back.
by my count, we’ve 9 of those games this season. i don’t know if that’s a lot, but many of them are against good opponents: PHX, MIL, ORL, POR(x2!), DAL. This is a very advantageous.
the rest come against MEM, DET, and GSW.
Wish him well, he’s a big body who takes up space in the paint. some NBA team will scoop him up at the right price.
Off subject, since the schedule is out, what happened to talks about a NBA game being played outside. Heard rumors last year, but the noise has died down since. Hockey has played outside venue games and it has been a success. Has anybody read anything new on the possibilty of a game being scheduled this year?
best of luck mbenga! And no matter what they say about ya, show em those rings and they’ll get reallll quiet.
2, one word: Wind.
Igor Avidon says
I hope he finds a spot on someone’s roster. He’s a very athletic dude, maybe Knicks pick him up for a year?
This is a nice breakdown of the schedules..
Lakers have 15 back-to-backs, fewest in the league. But check out Boston’s schedule – pretty favorable for an older team.
Joel b says
3. I believe the correct word is dacos.
I think we got what we expected from Dj over the past 2 seasons. We all love his heart and effort. I hope finds a role on a team next season. I’m actually surprise the heat didn’t go after him. With the team have I wouldve went after dj before old man juwan Howard. Dj can at least battle with pau and drew much better than Howard can.
Any thoughts on the Laker schedule ’til december? I counted 18 road games for the first 33 games. Last season was a home friendly Oct-Dec schedule. Any predictions on what will be the Laker record for the first 33 games? right off the bat I’m putting them at 26-7 with about 3 losses in November and 4 in the road-heavy December
The prospects of the Lakers to win basketball games next season has been little diminished by the projected departure of DJ. Nonetheless, there will be a contingent of fans who will feel betrayed when they come to Staples wearing their precious “Mbanging with Mbenga” jerseys.
With the loss of Ammo and Congo Cash in a single season, Laker humor will not be the same.
I hope that they both will be signed and remain in the NBA–and not signed to the Chinese team where the Smusher helped win a league championship last season.
I think this post sells DJ a little short.
DJ had the second highest offensive rebound rate on the team (behind Gasol). He was 4th in defensive rebounding which could have been better if he weren’t trying to contest so many shots. On the other hand, he did block shots at an extremly high rate. How high? High enough that he ranked 7th in the NBA in block% and nearly doubled up both Gasol and Bynum!!
In the end he finished with the second best Defensive Rating on the team (behind Odom). While I wouldn’t call DJ a great player, I think he did have a solid season, especially on the defensive end.
Craig W. says
While I loved it when Mbenga came in, his stats do not tell the story of his play. While stats can give indications, they often do lie – that’s why I would only use people like John Hollinger as a reference point to start a discussion and never use him as a way to prove a point.
Mbenga wasn’t that important to the Lakers, except as a counterpoint or in chemistry.
DJ’s importance was that he banged with Bynum and made Drew better during practice. He was a physical player (ask Chris Mihm). I would love to have him even now if we play Boston in the Finals (only if PJ wasn’t afraid to use him).