Review and preview: DJ Mbenga
Strengths: Humanitarian work.
Weaknesses: Basketball, except for blocking shots as a help defender.
Last year: In 7.2 minutes over 49 games, he put up 2.1 points and 1.8 boards with 0.6 blocks on his typically poor shooting (.471 TS%) shooting. Put up an 11.6 PER, driven primarily by what was a good rebounding year for him. Played only 12 minutes in 4 garbage time playoff appearances, putting up 5 points and 5 boards total.
Next year: Is an unrestricted free agent who will look to make a team to serve as an emergency big, with the D League or Europe also being possibilities. He will not be back with LA.
First off, I have to point out that DJ is a great man. His father was murdered after a government overthrow in his native Congo (then Zaire), but was able to pay a bribe to secure his son’s release, after which DJ was able to escape to Belgium. His philanthropic and volunteer work in the land of his birth and his work with Basketball without Borders is the stuff of real heroes.
As a basketball player, he is a borderline NBA roster level guy. He is 7 feet tall, and you can’t teach that. He is a fine shot blocker. He plays hard, which sometimes leads him to be a little too eager to leave his man to go for the block and usually leads to too many fouls. He is a black hole but cannot shoot. His rebounding and man defense are not as good as you would want from a center.
I hope he is able to catch on somewhere, but as minimum wage laws destroy unskilled labor jobs, so the CBA’s requirement that the minimum salary increase with experience hurts the employment chances of marginal vets. I root for him, but fear that DJ will be one of its victims this fall, although he could still make his way back via the D League/10 day contract route.