NBA / Jun 29, 2010 / 10:00 am

Baller’s Blueprint: How To Guard Kobe, LeBron, Durant & Carmelo

At a solid 6-8, 230 pounds, with quick feet developed while playing soccer in his native Cameroon, Luc Mbah a Moute was built to be an elite NBA defender. In his second year with the Milwaukee Bucks, the 23-year-old UCLA alum spent time in front of everybody from D-Wade to Dirk to Derrick Rose, and wrapped up his season with a playoff appearance and a couple of All-Defensive Team votes.

In Dime #57, Mbah a Moute made sure to credit his teammates for any praise he gets as a defender — “People watching think it’s all one-on-one, but they don’t see what’s going on behind you (as the defender),” he said — while breaking down his individual methods for defending the world’s best scorers:

He shoots a lot of shots, but he takes good shots. They like to run him off screens, but he scores in transition, on the offensive glass, post-ups, lots of different things. He’s got that length at 6-10; most of the time he’s shooting over you and when you challenge the shot it doesn’t affect him. You have to get him off those elbow spots, make him take tough shots. Be very physical with him. Get a bump on him. Don’t let him get close to the key and contest his shots.”

“He has the ball in his hands 95 percent of the time. He brings the ball up and handles it in pick-and-rolls. He’s almost always gonna be in some kind of pick-and-roll situation, either with Shaq or with Varejao or with Jamison, and he does a good job attacking the rim. He’s so big and fast, and when he attacks it’s hard to get help. You have to do your job early and not let him get there. It’s the same thing: Get him off his sweet spots. He likes to drive a lot, but then he’ll back off and shoot threes if he can’t drive. What we try to do is make him a passer more than a scorer.”

“Ooh man, Carmelo is tough. He’s a mix of Kobe and LeBron because he takes tough shots like Kobe but he’s just as big and strong as LeBron. He’s very skilled and they run a lot of iso situations for him. What I try to do with him is be very physical and crowd him a lot, make him a driver. If you do that and you get help from somebody, sometimes he’ll get out of control.”

“He’s tough to guard because he’s got the whole package. He’ll go in the post, mid-post, shoot threes … he’ll have the ball in his hands coming off pick-and-rolls, coming off screens. He does things you’re not used to. He takes and makes big shots. Usually with Kobe you want to be very physical, use your length and just make it tough for him. If you do that, maybe he gets frustrated a little bit and tries to take too many tough shots.”

“He’s also got the ball in his hands most of the time. What makes D-Wade special is his change of speed. He’s one of the best in the game at getting to the rim and exploding at the point of attack. We try to cut off his drive as much as possible. He’s not a great three-point shooter, so try to make him take jump shots. You have to pick and choose when to be physical because he gets to the line so much, and make sure your whole team is behind you. When he drives, most of his points are and-ones and floaters and finishing at the rim. You want him taking jump shots all night.”

“Those two guys are underrated scorers. People don’t talk about them as much as the others, but they definitely should be mentioned. Both of them are always in iso situations, usually from the elbow. B-Roy has such a quick first step and he can shoot. He’s very smooth and under control. Same with Joe, he’s always under control and tough to guard. You have to know their tendencies, what they like to do, what bothers them, what makes them uncomfortable. Get them out of their comfort zone, out of their rhythm.”

Who do you think is the toughest NBA player to stick 1-on-1?

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  • Geoff

    The best PLAYER is Lebron. The best pure scorers would be Carmelo, Kobe and Kevi. Kobe has the highest basketball IQ, but from what our NBA insider is saying it sounds like Carmelo is the toughest cover.

  • tex

    Kobe is the only one who can score anywhere, name it – low post,perimeter game, three point area, can drive the hoops, and money on free throws…You can defend Bryant now because he has injuries and an old 31 y/o but still very dangerous.

    With Lebron and Dwade, defenders usually allow them to take jump shots because they are very streaky in that area especially Lebron who is just an average free throw shooter.. Melo is a better scorer than Lebron and DWade but his attitude and work ethic is always a big question.

  • del

    great fuck’n article. more of these please

  • The Other Aj

    Correction Geoff…

    THe best PLAYER is Kobe. The best ATHLETE is LeBron. Melo is the best pure scorer, with Durant second. Melo is the toughest cover for the exact reason Luc said, he’s a mix of LeBron & Kobe. If Melo would dedicate himself to increasing his assists and playing more defense he would be hands down the best player in L when KB24 finally hangs them up.

  • thedoc

    I think he said it right about Carmelo when he said “Ooh man”. He is a beast.

  • sh!tfaced

    Wow. From what he said, it’s really a shame Melo has a low basketball IQ…

    But Mbah a Moute sure does have high basketball IQ. If he develops some sort of outside shot, he’d be the next decade’s Michael Cooper/James Posey type of player.

  • Heckler

    manu Ginobli wasnt mentioned, but when this lil argentinian mofo is on, he has to be a NIGHTMARE to guard.

    to many tricks, slick moves and long strides. he hadnle the ball lefty. drives, hits step backs in your grill and all that.

    looks you in the face (“yes, yes. in d face”), and does it again like you aint shit.

    Manu (when he got it going) has to be part of the top10 when it comes to players toughest to guard.

  • http://facebook.com/Mr.Brogden Mr. Brogden

    @ # 2 —}} DITTO

    KD – Shoots alot, get physical, make him think twice
    KOBE – takes and makes biggies, make him take more toughies
    LBJ – make him more of a passer
    Wade – make him a jump shooter, limit his explosions
    Melo – make him shoot out-of-control joints
    BRoy – stay in front of him
    JJ – crowd his space but be smart and patient ’cause he is

    ^^–} Funny how a casual observer of the game might point these tendencies out and it seems like a good hypothesis. But when you get true NBA insight from an elite defender, it seems like good common-sense strategy. Credibility is everything sometimes.

    Casual observer on 5 lower-profile scorers…

    How do you shut down Dirk in MidRange land?
    Dont crowd him, let him see the basket and contest straight up n down

    What about Rashard?
    Make him put it on the floor. Comedy ensues.

    How do you limit Sjack?
    Just play D on him. He gets lost in the heat of the battle, tries to outshine whoever’s outshining him. He starts playing aggressive 1on1 basketball…not team ball.

    Or a Ben Gordon?
    Make him play D. Defense is the last thing on this guy’s mind. He’ll go hard for one outta every 4 plays. His only concern is shooting. Make Ben play D and you won the lotto.

    I know how to shut down Dwight.
    Keep him at least 6ft away from the basket. He can’t do nothing.

  • http://www.cnnsi.com JAY

    By far, this is the Dime article of the Year
    Way to go Austin!

    #3 is right about Kobe and LBJ

  • Soopa

    Awesome read. I like Luc. His mentality is the reason the Bucks were good and should be good again next season.

  • Mark

    Great Article AB!!!

    Ditto to #2, #3, and #9.

    Very insightful piece. Luc was very insightful…thanks for interviewing him.

    Thanks again for a great article!

  • Sporty-j

    Kobe=Tuff Shots Wade=Speed Lebron=Power Melo=Strength Durant=Smooth J.Johnson and B.Roy=Under control All those players= MICHEAL JORDAN the GREATEST

  • The Journeyman

    I agree…really liked this article…

    interesting cause as a fan you watch the game and notice players’ tendencies but guys like Luc Mbah have it on lock

  • DH

    @sh!tfaced – It’s not just a basketball IQ that Melo lacks.

  • sh!tfaced

    @ DH

    What else? Not so tough on defense? More accuracy from three? Too selfish at times?

  • Nyeme

    I been said Melo is probably the hardest player to guard in the league. He’s the total package like Kobe but stronger.

    Question though; why do people say Melo has a low basketball IQ? He has a great feel and knowledge for the game from what I see.

  • http://twitter.com/soulonice6 soulonice

    @ Mr. Brogden

    I feel ya on what you said, homie. Thing that’s crazy is, out of all those dudes, the key to slowing down LeBron is making him a passer, but dude averaged nine dimes last year. Even when teams make him a passer, he can still kill ‘em. That’s pretty scary, aint it?

  • nella

    Agreed, great article.

    Melo is a handful. Watching Kobe guard saying it was like moving up a weight class was as telling as it gets. Even Lebron couldn’t stop him head to head this year. That was a great game to watch.

  • http://facebook.com/Mr.Brogden Mr. Brogden


    …and when that polished post game comes…and he improves his handle which is very good by the way for a big guy…and he stops traveling…and he becomes more of a consistent long range threat…and when he slows the game just a lil’ bit and plays more with the brain than the brawn…

    this bol IS scary!!!! Already!

    After Kobe, he’s the only worth talking about the BEST PLAYER IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.

  • eazy yeezy

    note: i’m not a cavs fan. but people, how are we going to sit here and not call lebron the best in the world? to say he’s just a crazy athlete is wrong. tyrus thomas, stromile swift and harold minor were/are crazy athletes. people dont just fall ass-backward into career averages of 28-7-7. put lebron on the lakers and they win a title. put kobe on the cavs and they dont make it past the celtics in the 2nd round. if you think kobe or anyone else in the league is winning with mo williams and the ghosts of ‘twan and shaq- youre crazy.

  • K Dizzle

    ‘Tawn and Shaq

    I gotta say this cuz EVERYBODY mess this up:
    Antawn(Anton) Jamison. Let’s get this right.

    2) Kobe is still the best player. If it was all about stats, then DWade would be the best, but it’s not.It’s about winning. Please no more with the put so and so on this team and it’s a wrap. That’s not realistic. Lebron James is no doubt the most athletic freak in the WORLD, but his lack of confidence in his j, his lack of a midrange game and no postup game to speak off puts him behind Kobe as the best in the world.

    3) Shoulda asked Luc about how he’d guard Pierce cuz when he’s on (see game 5), not enough Ron could faze him. Stepbacks, pullups, postups, 3s, elbow j, elbow j, elbow j, draw contact and finish, draw contact and put you in foul trouble. Kinda a mix of Kobe and Melo.

  • http://facebook.com/togstadlives Jeremiah Togstad

    Great article Dime.

    It’s laughable to visualize guarding any of those players mentioned above, but as a big man, guarding Pau would be the nightmare for me.

    The giant Spaniard has the best post-moves in the game right now – circa early 2000’s Tim Duncan. The jumper, the footwork, the rebounding, the passing. It seems the best way to contain Pau is to be physical in transition D and make him post up farther from the rim. Make it uncomfortable for him near the paint. Don’t let him dunk – foul hard if needed. It all sounds great on paper, but in person it’s nearly impossible.

    He was the most consistent and reliable player in the finals – and although I used to hate on him for being “soft” and lookin like the wolfman on meth – he transformed into the best big man in the league (sorry Dwight).

    My bad for the nut hugging, but it’s funny how I used to hate on Pau and two years later he’s the best big in the game. Anyways, thanks for the good read Dime and let’s go Knicks!

  • Jas2:26

    @ K Dizzle

    Dude, did you even watch the playoffs this year? We are talking about the best player right NOW, not on past achievements or whatever. You must be clearly delusional if you think Kobe can still drop 30 a night at will. He;s shot selection is borderline J.R Smith when he;s frustrated. That so-called patented fadeaway is just a licence to shoot tough, unnecessary shots. The ONLY reason Lakers prevailed over Celtics this year is because of the inside play of Gasol and Bynum. In fact, i’d go so far as to say that Kobe’s return to volume jacking was detrimental to the Lakers. Kobe is a pure shooter, period, at this stage of his career. 95% of his shots are jumpers. The main difference between Lebron and Kobe is that Lebron can drop 40 with layups and dunks. Only D Wade comes close.

  • http://dime.com Jojo & Melo


  • sid

    KDizzle sputtered:
    “You must be clearly delusional if you think Kobe can still drop 30 a night at will.”

    Right, he only scored 30+ in 12 of 13 consecutive playoff games while LeBron was sitting on his dumbasz at home trying to figure out his team was decimated yet again. Funny how he has 2 other all stars on his team and they’re great in the regular season but when the heat gets turned up and and the real season begins he’s clueless. Kobe has 5 rings and counting and LeBron’s just waiting for him to finish.