The Thunder have signed free agent big man Nazr Mohammed, according to the Vertical. Mohammed most recently played for the Chicago Bulls last season. Most notably, Mohammed is a 17 year NBA veteran that played for the Thunder from 2010-2012.
At the ripe age of 38, Mohammed will be one of the league's 10 oldest players. As such, it's obvious that Mohammed is coming on in a primarily mentor-based role. The Thunder have just endured a brutal stretch, losing six of their first eight games after the All-Star break. Assistant coaches Monty Williams and Mo Cheeks are away from the team, both for different personal reasons. There have been questions about accountability, both for players and the remaining coaches. Mohammed is likely seen as someone who can bring a stabilizing locker room presence. Kendrick Perkins would have been OKC's first choice, but he's committed to New Orleans.
Mohammed will be eligible for the playoffs, despite the March 1st waiver deadline. This is Mohammed's first team this season, so the rule doesn't apply. The most recently Mohammed had a regular role on a team was two seasons ago, in 2013-14. Back then, Mohammed was a defensive force. NBA.com's advanced stats tell me that he allowed opposing players to shoot just 48% withing 6 feet of the rim. For comparison, Adams allows 54%, and Ibaka allows 53%. Even Mohammed's defense within 10 feet is better, at 46% compared to 47% for Adams and 50% for Ibaka.
Offensively, Mohammed is a decent pick and popper, shooting 41.2% from 7 to 15 feet back in 2013-14. Mohammed mostly does his work in the post though. Battling for rebounds, getting putbacks, using the pick and roll, stuff like that. Indeed, Mohammed is a terrific rebounder, averaging 11 rebounds per 36 minutes for his entire career. Here's a wonderful highlight reel of Mohammed's three years with the Bulls, which gives you some idea of his play style:
However, with Kanter and Adams at center, Mohammed would likely only be used in an emergency situation. Those stats are from two years ago, so there's no telling how they translate to today. Furthermore, Mohammed's lack of mobility can be a hindrance for him at times.
Mohammed just wrote a blog about joining the Thunder. Please go read the whole thing if you have time. But here's a couple of snippets describing Mohammed's conditioning and his decision-making process:
Like I said, I had a short list of teams that I would undoubtedly come out of semi-retirement for. Of course OKC was on my short list, which consisted mostly of teams I played for in the past. When I spoke to the Thunder, their first question was, "How does your body feel?" Anybody who follows me on social media knows that I’m probably a little addicted to my workouts. I’ve kept up my same training regimen (court work three to five times a week, conditioning, and lifting weights) with my guys at Accelerate Basketball, so I knew I was prepared physically.
This is a winning organization with players who are dedicated to winning and playing basketball the right way. I’m one of Kevin and Russ’s biggest fans. You could argue that Russ is one of the best guards in the NBA. You could argue that Kevin is the best at his position – or even the best player – in the NBA. I like to think of it this way: there are about five or six players in the NBA that can truly claim that they are the best players in the world. And two of those guys are on the Thunder. But even after all that, the deciding factor was the character of the locker room and its stars. Off the court, they are great people; guys that you want to be around. Kevin and Russ epitomize what the stars of this generation are all about…being great players AND great people.
Hopefully Mohammed can bring some stability to the locker room, which will mean more wins for the Thunder. If Mohammed's history with OKC is any indication, then he seems like the right man. Mohammed was the Thunder's defacto backup center once they traded for Kendrick Perkins back in 2010. By all accounts, he did his job well. But Mohammed saw his role diminished during playoff situations, both in 2011 and 2012. So it really speaks to Mohammed's character that he never once complained, and is willing to re-join the organization in an auxiliary role.
What do you think of the Nazr Mohammed signing? Drop a comment and let us know!