Cleveland Cavaliers: What are we seeing from Mfiondu Kabengele?

Mfiondu Kabengele, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
Mfiondu Kabengele, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

Mfiondu Kabengele was recently signed to a multi-year deal by the Cleveland Cavaliers, after his two 10-day contracts with the team played out.

While I’m still pretty skeptical of his potential fit with the club looking onward, the deal was a next-to-no risk move by Cleveland, who is so banged up right now, and with the next two seasons of the contract non-guaranteed.

Kabengele to this point is an unproven NBA player, objectively, but perhaps he could be a developmental big for the Cavaliers to bring along gradually.

Kabengele did not get much meaningful playing time with the LA Clippers in his first 1.5 seasons in the league, and was traded to the Sacramento Kings near the March 25 deadline of this season. Shortly thereafter, Sacramento waived him.

Albeit Kabengele did get plenty of time on the floor with LA’s G League Affiliate team, the Agua Caliente Clippers, in his rookie season in 2019-20. With them, he had 18.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest, and he did flash some stretch big potential.

While a 32.3 percent hit rate on his three-point attempts with Agua Caliente was nothing to write home about, him having 6.0 three-point attempts per outing was quite a healthy volume and he did show some catch-and-shoot qualities. There were pick-and-pop abilities shown as well.

In relation to Kabengele’s PT thus far with the Cavs, we hadn’t seen him in there a ton, necessarily, initially. He has gotten a fair amount in more recent games, though, due to injuries, such as to Isaiah Hartenstein, for example.

In his first eight appearances, he had 3.0 points and 1.6 rebounds in 9.8 minutes per game; since, he’s had a few games of late where he’s been in there more. In that, he has shown some flashes as a possible floor spacing big for down the road, and before Cleveland’s W over the Boston Celtics, he had hit eight of his 22 three-point attempts with the Cavs, a 36.4 percent hit rate.

Kabengele went zero-of-four from three in that win on Wednesday, which his hit rate on those to 30.8 percent. But there could be something there.

And with Cleveland especially banged up/the team having to be weighing lottery odds, seemingly, Kabengele seems primed for his share of PT again in these last two outings.

So what are we seeing from Kabengele for the Cavs?

With guys like Larry Nance Jr. set to be out for the rest of the season due to a fractured thumb and Hartenstein still seemingly gradually recovering from a concussion, Kabengele should again get his considerable chunk of minutes in these last two.

Granted, Anderson Varejao is set to have some PT, during this last farewell tour of sorts with Cleveland via hardship exception signing, but we could perhaps see the two together here and there.

Jarrett Allen will still get his share of opportunities, albeit with Cleveland’s situation to close out the year here, one would think seeing Kabengele in there would be meaningful for further evaluation of him perhaps with some more PT.

And Varejao is 38 and has not been playing professionally since playing for Flamengo in Brazil in 2019, and in his career with the Cavs he was oft-injured, anyhow. So we’ll have to see just what kind of playing time he does actually get; him closing out the season is mostly just a fan experience/farewell sort of thing.

In any case, when it comes to Kabengele, in a prior three games earlier on, he had played 11, 21 and 12 minutes, and against the Orlando Magic on April 28, he did have eight points and hit two-of-three from three-point range, for instance.

Against the Washington Wizards, while a blowout L wasn’t great, nor was Darius Garland injuring his ankle in that one, Kabengele did at least get more PT and had seven points and five rebounds, to go with three assists and two steals.

In the last two games, Kabengele was able to show some more of his floor spacing potential, as he hit a three against the Dallas Mavericks, and had a heck of a putback dunk in that one. He had a career-best 14 points, too.

And Kabengele did provide some nice energy for Cleveland against the Indiana Pacers, which was much closer than I would’ve expected, and had points and four rebounds, to go with an assist and steal. Him hitting two of four triple attempts in that game also jumped out, and that sort of thing makes one think that’s what the Cavaliers are looking to further develop with him.

Moreover, while it’s tough to forecast at this point if Kabengele can be a long-term bench contributor for Cleveland perhaps next season/onward, and I’m skeptical of that, him getting some decent playing time to close out the season is sensible.

Maybe he could be a decent third 5 option for the Wine and Gold next season, in particular.

And perhaps there could be some untapped stretch big potential and rolling viability for the 6-foot-9, 250-pound big. Can he prove to alter shots in upcoming games while not having too much foul trouble, though?

That’s tough to say, and hitting some more shots would be meaningful for him, provided the opportunities arise.

Taking a look at the Cavs Player of the Week for April 26-May 2. dark. Next

We’ll have to see in regards to that, but one would expect the 23-year-old Florida State product to get some of those via catch-and-shoots in this last two games of 2020-21 for Cleveland.