Now that the Clippers’ 2020 season has reached its disappointing end, 213Hoops will work through the roster player-by-player for our “Exit Interview” series. Today’s exit interview features rookie Mfiondu Kabengele.

Basic Information

Height: 6’9

Weight: 250 pounds

Position: Center/Power Forward

Age: 23

Years in NBA: Rookie

Key Stats: Averaged 3.5 points and 0.9 rebounds in 5.3 minutes per game across 12 NBA games on 43.8/45/100 shooting splits.

G-League Stats: Averaged 18.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.9 blocks in 31.3 minutes per game across 31 games played on 48.4/32.7/81 shooting splits.

Contract Status: On a standard four-year rookie deal with team options in 2022 and 2023, with a guaranteed salary of $2,075,880 next season.

Expectations

Despite being a 1st round pick, Fi’s expectations this season were extremely low. Fans (and the team) understood that he was a project coming into a team with championship expectations, and that it would be extremely unlikely for him to earn a role on the team. The expectations were instead for Fi to spend much of the year in the G-League developing his game, and to provide some tantalizing flashes of potential in garbage time situations at the NBA level.

Reality

Nothing much has changed since my check-in on Kab a few months ago, as he didn’t play at all in the bubble. In fact, he wasn’t even brought to Orlando at all, getting passed up by two-way rookie Amir Coffey. He squarely met his expectations, and not a bit more, as he spent almost the entire season in Agua Caliente, playing just a handful of minutes at the NBA level. When he was up in the NBA, he checked in exclusively in garbage time, where he had the ultimate green light to chuck shots. Extrapolating his performances over 36 minutes and you get an average of 11.3 three-point shots attempted, a pretty incredible number for a big man.

That’s where Fi tantalizes. He’s an athletic, mobile big man who has the potential of outside shooting. Now, in an actual sample size in the G-League, he shot a mere 32%, but the confidence, form, and touch is there for him to be better than that. While not tall, Fi’s size and wingspan enables him to be a deterrent at the rim, as his block numbers in the G-League attest.

Unfortunately, everything else is where Fi struggles. He doesn’t really know how to play defense at a professional level, showing confusion in rotations and schemes – his mobility and athleticism don’t help if he’s in the wrong place. On offense, while he can shoot and can finish above the rim, he’s a black hole who looks for his own shot first, second, and third. The tools are there, but the connection is not. Now, that can be developed, but Fi did not demonstrate that he’s close to being an NBA rotation player.

Future with Clippers

It’s hard to predict Fi’s future with the Clippers when the crucial pieces on the team have such uncertain futures. If Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leave next year after another disappointing season, the Clippers could be in for a long rebuild, in which case every young asset will become precious. On the other hand, in order to keep Kawhi and PG, the Clippers might go all in on next season, which could very well mean trading Fi for a veteran who brings more to the 2021 Clippers. Fi has not demonstrated that he should be a long-term piece for the Clippers, but he’s also one of the few players on the roster with upside, and is cost-controlled over the next few years. That could either lead to him developing into a key element of future Clippers teams, or as trade bait, and right now it’s impossible to say which path is more likely.

16 Comments

  • Darius Miles Forever Darius Miles Forever says:

    If they knew Fi doesn’t know how to play pro basketball but drafted him just to stick him in the G-league until his contract expires, ….it’s just a moronic move by FO.

    He has all the tools. Play him instead of keeping him in the G-league. We can’t get Ibaka, we can’t get Baynes. We can’t get legit vet center anyway. If they plan to not use Fi forever, then keep Noah. Zu-Noah-JaMychal. I’m totally fine with that rotation.

    • Avatar chogokin says:

      If they drafted him w/o any real expectation of using him it’d actually be extra moronic because the FO traded into the 1st round to get him – admittedly the cost was low (our 1st rounder this year and a 2nd rounder), but those are still assets that the team could desperately use right now. We can only hope the FO saw something in him that the rest of us haven’t seen yet – all those physical tools mean nothing if he can’t pick u a pro-level offensive/defensive scheme.

    • Lucas Hann Lucas Hann says:

      Obviously they didn’t draft him with the intention of sticking him in the G-league until his contract expires, but that doesn’t mean that that’s not his destiny. The coaches who work with him every day have better information than we do, it’s as simple as that. Outside of some G-League highlight reels (the least meaningful video), all I’ve seen of him since 2019 Summer League was garbage time minutes–and none of those since March.

      The coaches have him every day. They know him better than we do. Playing a young guy just to play him is a disaster waiting to happen. You play him when he’s earned it. The Clippers will be able to get a veteran C using their taxpayer mid-level, it’s just a matter of if they decide to utilize that exception there (pending other roster needs created by potential trades) and who they end up with.

      Centers who played for less than the taxpayer MLE last year (not counting rookie deals): Baynes, Robin Lopez, Kanter, Alex Len, JaVale McGee, Boban, Khem Birch, Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kyle O’Quinn, Nerlens Noel. There’s a strong class of backup-level Cs this summer, too: Whiteside, Gasol, Biyombo, Thompson, Leonard, Baynes, Poeltl, Dwight, WCS, O’Quinn, Noel, Ibaka, Favors, Trez, Christian Wood. Will the Clippers get their choice of the bunch? Probably not, several of them (Ibaka in particular) figure to get nicer deals. But not all of those guys are going to get above 6M, and they aren’t all going guaranteed minutes on a contender. Particularly a guy like Tristan Thompson will probably be choosing between splitting Boston’s C minutes with Theis or splitting LAC’s with Zubac, with the same mMLE offer from both teams.

      • Darius Miles Forever Darius Miles Forever says:

        Thank you for listing candidates.

        I feel like we better keep Noah or sign Tyson Chandler on a vet min IF we didn’t end up landing Baynes, Gasol or Noel. Noah or Chandler are kinda washed up but those vets won’t play many minutes. We can trust Zu. His D had been good and offensively he will start launching 3s soon. I’d rather use MLE on a wing or a guard than a situational center like Biyombo, Whiteside or soft ass WCS. I like Poeltl but he’s a RFA? and basically another Zu a.k.a foul prone.

        Tristan Thompson…. I think he looked good because he had LeBron before and he’s been in the Eastern Conference. He’s too small and unskilled to compete Western Conference bigmen.

        • Darius Miles Forever Darius Miles Forever says:

          Sorry I was little bit drunked.

          We can’t rely on Noah or Chandler for long ass 82 regular-season games. We need a backup center like Leonard, O’Quinn, Tristan or even Thon Maker if we didn’t get Baynes/Gasol/Noel.
          Meyers Leonard was playing well as a starter for Miami Heat before injury.

    • Robert Flom Robert Flom says:

      As Lucas said, they didn’t draft him to play in the G-League for four years, but long-term prospects like him frequently spend much of their first year or two in the G-League. It’s nothing out of the ordinary.

  • Avatar John Maclean says:

    I like Fi and his skill set. But I’m also the idiot who touted David Blatt while forgetting he had MS so WTF do I know? Not much.

    Still, much of these personnel decisions will come down to who we choose for a coach.

  • Avatar Based Freestyle says:

    Fi’s potential is riding on this coaching hire, IMO. If we hire a progressive coach who gives young players a chance, he may very well pan out for us. If we hire a retread like Lue or D’Antoni, he’ll be a G-League/garbage time player for the rest of his contract and then probably go play in Europe.

    • Robert Flom Robert Flom says:

      Again, it really depends on what happens next year. Like I said, I can’t see him getting minutes on a championship contending team next season.

      But after that, rebuild or continue to contend with Kawhi or PG, the roster will likely shift a lot, and Fi will get his chance.

  • Avatar Kenneth Hansen says:

    Hey Lucas,
    Since Trez is rumored to be interested in signing with Toronto, what about the possibility of a sign-and-trade with him for Ibaka? Ibaka could mentor Fi, assuming he isn’t part of the trade.