When Byron Mullens to the Clippers was first announced, the reaction of the expectant fanbase was mixed, to say the least. To be fair, Mullens has underwhelmed throughout his career. Breaking down his shot by location last season, for all qualified centers:
Mullens is about league average inside of ten feet and serviceable from long-two and three-point range (long-two point shots not being optimal in terms of efficiency anyways). Not eye-popping numbers by any means, but as the Clippers’ fourth big man? Simply being within the threshold of normal as a backup makes a player valuable.
Mullens’ defensive numbers as compared to qualified centers:
Again, Mullens is essentially average in most ways as an NBA center. He is weaker on the offensive glass, but Doc Rivers has historically shown a penchant for withdrawing players to set up a proper defense rather than gambling on a second chance opportunity.
All of these numbers are compounded by the fact that Byron Mullens has been on one of the worst teams in the league throughout his playing NBA career, first riding the bench for Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City, then going to Charlotte and playing for Paul Silas and finally Mike Dunlap, a first time NBA coach.
And I can go on and on in constructing a narrative about Mullens’ situation and assessing a player within the context of his situation, but here is the gist of the message: Byron Mullens has already proven himself to at least be an average to slightly below average center. If a team can march out merely average players as a part of their bench, that is a boon in terms of maintaining momentum during games.
Additionally, Mullens’ deal is for two-years at the league minimum. This is an ideal low-risk/high-reward situation for a contending team that needs to be smart with roster spots and available cap space. If Mullens displays nothing more than what was shown in Charlotte? The Clippers have a reasonable backup big man at the minimum that can spell DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin for 8-to-12 minutes a night. But if Mullens can tap into any kind of reservoir of potential? Then the Clippers massively upgrade their bench without exposing themselves deep luxury tax concerns or long term commitments.
Separate the reputation from the transaction and this is easily a smart maneuver from a front office making a habit of intelligent decisions.
Stats via Hoopdata