Veteran free agent forward Luc Mbah a Moute agreed to sign a one-year deal worth $4.3 million with the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal is a huge blow to the Houston Rockets, a team that is watching the gap between themselves and the Golden State Warriors widen before their very eyes.
Mbah a Moute was an integral part to a Rockets defense that morphed into one of the top 10 in the league last season due to the versatility of its forwards. With him, P.J. Tucker, and Trevor Ariza, Houston could switch virtually over any screen and allow big man Clint Capela to stay home and protect the rim.
But the Rockets watched Ariza sign a one-year, $15 million deal with the Phoenix Suns early into the free agency period. And now with Mbah a Moute leaving for Los Angeles, the Rockets don’t project to be as menacing a defense as they were last season.
Offense is still Houston’s calling card, and with James Harden and Chris Paul — the beneficiary of a new four-year, $160 million contract — there will still be plenty of buckets to hand out. Those buckets could increase if the Rockets truly become players for Carmelo Anthony, who isn’t expected to play for the Thunder next season.
But it was Houston’s defense that turned them into legitimate championship contenders last season, and it appears to be vanishing into thin air after losing two of their best defenders.
It’s a great move for the Clippers to add a versatile wing like Mbah a Moute, who has developed into a reliable three-point shooter in recent seasons. But it’s a terrible, potentially debilitating blow to Housron’s championship hopes; a blow the league and its fans will have to watch and see if they can recover from.