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Taking Out the Trash Volume 7: Wendell Moore Jr., Floor Raiser
Wendell Moore Jr. may not be elite at one thing, but he's really good at a lot of things.
It’s so good to be back and writing again. My day job has me traveling all over Southern California, but I’m ready to rock again and just in time for the peak of draft season. For this installment, we’re going to break down Wendell Moore Jr. from Duke.
I realized I haven’t really touched on any of the guys that are getting mocked at the very top of the draft, but that will come soon enough. For now, I’m just gonna keep diving into players that interest me. I like what I like, and thankfully the guys at No Ceilings give me the freedom to pretty much write about whoever I want. Will this be the case forever? Probably not, so I’m going to enjoy this for as long as possible.
If you’re an elite human being, I’m sure you’re into Formula 1 racing by now. They just held the inaugural Miami Grand Prix this past weekend. I’ve only been into F1 Racing for about a year and a half now, but it’s some of the best drama in all of sports. Obviously the Netflix series “Drive to Survive” is a big reason why the sport is gaining more and more traction in the States, but once you get into watching the actual sport, you gain an even deeper appreciation for the drama and the drivers.
While I was watching the race this weekend, there was a moment when one of the drivers went into the pitlane to get his tires swapped out. The pit crew struggled with the front right tire, and the driver ended up losing a ton of time due to his pit stop. While I was watching that, I thought about the value of the pit crew, how vital they are to a driver’s success, and how much pressure is on their shoulders to do what they do correctly. Not only do they have to do their job well, but they also have to do it ridiculously fast. I remember watching a race last year when the Red Bull Racing pit crew completed their pit stop for Max Verstappen in 1.7 seconds. On average F1 pit crews will swap out a car’s tires in about 2.5 seconds. The difference between 1.7 seconds and 2.5 seconds is huge if you consider that some of these races come down to a difference of a fraction of a second. I don’t know a single pit crew member of any F1 team, but that doesn’t mean those guys aren’t valuable.
While watching the various pit crews work this weekend, I randomly started thinking about NBA teams in the playoffs and the different parts and pieces of these successful rosters that have made it to the second round. All the headlines and accolades will always go to the stars—that's a given. You’re also going to have your role players that specialize in certain skills, whether it’s a 3-and-D wing or a pick-and-roll big who will just screen, dive, and lob all day long. Along those lines of specialization, I started to think about Wendell Moore Jr. and wondered where he’d fit in that mix?
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Moore probably won’t be a multi-time All-NBA guy with 8-10 All-Star game appearances. If he ever does get to that level, then all credit to him. At the same time, when you look at this skill set and what he was able to show in college, it would be difficult to say that he’s a specialist, either. He’s not really elite at anything, and yet he’s good at a lot of things. Many times prospects like Moore get labeled a jack of all trades, master of none. Generally, I feel like that label is used to slight a player and their lack of expertise. In the case of Wendell Moore Jr, I see it more as a compliment. I think his elite skill is being pretty good at a lot of things.
If you look hard at how NBA teams are building out their roster,s there is a massive emphasis on adding long, versatile wings. Look at teams like the Raptors, Clippers, Suns, Celtics, etc. Every NBA front office should be looking for defensive versatility and the ability to switch and guard multiple positions. Moore is a guy that didn’t exactly blow people away with his defense in college, but that doesn’t mean he was bad. He was a solid defender who many times was asked to guard the toughest assignments every night. When breaking down his defense, I think the one thing that I thought he could really work on was his physicality. I felt he was a little too laid back at times and didn’t get his body into his man enough when guarding guys one-on-one. I also thought he struggled at times against smaller, twitchy guards, but honestly, who doesn’t struggle against those guys? I did love how he would use his length to recover and contest shots, but overall, I think he could work on his footwork and footspeed a little bit to tighten things up.
In the two clips above, you can see some of the defensive skills in Moore’s arsenal. I really like his frame and how aggressive he can be at times on the ball. I thought his man got to the bucket a little too easily in the first clip, but you have to admire the effort to recover, and he gets himself a nice block. In the second clip, he really closes the gap between himself and his man and gets really active with his hands. I love how intense he is on that possession; it almost looked like the ball-handler just gave up and let Moore poke the ball away. That’s the type of physical brand of defense that NBA coaches love to see from wings in the playoffs. A gripe that I have with Moore is that I don’t think we saw that aggression or physicality all the time. Of course, there are many factors behind that, but I’d like to see him lock in more and get nasty on a more consistent basis on the next level. I think he can do it; I’m a believer.
I liked this possession as well because he was going up against a shifty guard in Michael Devoe and did a good job of keeping him in front of him and recovering to contest the shot. Devoe was a high-volume scorer in college and not the easiest guy to guard. Watching clips like this makes me think Moore can competitively guard 3-4 positions. That sounds plenty versatile to me. Personally, I thought he was an okay help defender. I didn’t think he was always as engaged as he needed to be, and I thought he relied on his length to poke at balls more than actually sliding his feet to help on a drive. This help-side block below is pretty nice, though—look at that wingspan!
Sprinkles of offense
The thing that really draws me to Moore is how much he had the ball in his hands for Duke this past season. Because the Blue Devils didn’t really have a traditional point guard, Moore was asked to bring the ball up the floor a ton and initiate the offense. I will not argue that Moore should be a primary ball-handler for an NBA team. What I am trying to say is he can be a really solid secondary or tertiary playmaker. Not only can he handle the ball, but he also worked on his shot over the course of his career in Durham. This past season he shot 41.3% from long-range on over three attempts per game and also shot 80.5% from the charity stripe, which is always something I like to see when evaluating shooters. I have to mention that the sample size was not gigantic, but you could see it all on tape. That 41.3% mark from deep is a really high number, and to be totally honest, I do think that number is a little higher than what I expected it to be. Moore has developed a ton as a stand-still shooter off the catch. Where I think he struggles the most is when he shoots off of movement. As he hits the next level and gets more reps, I expect him to work on that a ton so that he can shoot running off screens and handoffs at a higher clip. Off the dribble, it was definitely hit or miss, but he did have some saucy-looking makes as well, watch the third clip I posted below and tell me that’s not pretty.
Once again, like his defense, he’s a good shooter, but he’s not a great shooter. When I think about the total package, though, all we really need is for him to shoot 35-38% from three. If he can sit in that range for his career, we’re talking about a really fun player that needs to be respected as a shooter.
Now let’s get into the passing. I have a co-worker who is a big-time foodie, and whenever he eats something that’s just fine, he likes to characterize said dish as “aggressively average” (shouts to you, Carlos). Some of the clips I’m going to post of Moore’s passing might be characterized as aggressively average, but again, I have to ask, why is average bad? Look at this first clip where Moore does a nice job of slivering through the pick and roll and makes a nice pass to the weakside wing to AJ Griffin for a nice dime. Is it the most amazing pass you’ll see today? Probably not, but it’s plenty good and more than enough from a secondary playmaker.
Look at the set below. Moore gets a handoff, goes through some staggered screens, fakes the entry pass into Mark Williams, and finds Trevor Keels sitting comfortably in the weakside corner. NICE! I wish Keel hit the shot, but that’s a nice little possession there.
Let’s watch Trevor Keels redeem himself in this next play. Moore gets the ball from a Theo John rebound and pushes the ball up the floor, weaves through three defenders, and drops off a nice dime to Keels for the layup. Another not so miraculous move but also really nice. Do you sense a theme here?
I understand the concerns—he’s not really great at anything. I guess my ultimate argument is that if you’re searching for a nice piece to support your star players, a guy like Wendell Moore Jr. might be perfect for what you’re building. Duke may not have won the National Championship this year but I think Moore proved to everyone that he could easily slot into a supporting role and do a multitude of things for you. He’s willing to guard the opposing team’s best player, he can run your offense in a pinch, and he can shoot off the catch and help space the floor for you. These are all good skills that he can bring to a contending team. Instead of calling Wendell Moore Jr. simply a role player, I like to think of him as a floor raiser. By being decent at everything, he raises the overall floor of your team, and that’s not a bad thing at all.