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E’Twaun Moore will provide more bang for the Pelicans than you think

New Orleans landed a player who will more than make up for the departure of Eric Gordon.

NBA: Preseason-Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

When the news broke that the New Orleans Pelicans had signed E’Twaun Moore, I wasn’t immediately blown away. I liked the move, but thought the team probably had more glaring holes to fill. Still, in the small moments I had remembered seeing Moore play, I knew he was a solid role player, who was heady, played with effort, and still pretty young. He filled needs: improving the perimeter defense, had a good handle and above average playmaking ability, and was coming off of a year where he shot 45% from deep.

In Moore’s round table grade, I mistakenly gave the signing a B- in haste. After I was actually able to really dig into him, I realized how wrong I was because Moore is the anti-Gordon! He’s the ultimate roleplayer, and potentially a late-blooming star that just needed the right situation. Coincidentally, no situation needed him so desperately as New Orleans. The Pelicans were like the inexperienced cannibal eating into their cap space with a bunch of empty calories trying to survive the owner’s win now mandate — Eric Gordon, Norris Cole, and Jimmer Fredette — until a well-balanced meal saved the team from continually eating their past mistakes.

E’Twaun is a great defender who provides a ton of versatility. He’s 6’-4” but has a 6’-9” wingspan and a lot of core strength. He reminds me a bit of Chris Paul in that he’s like an inflatable punching clown filled with cement— you can’t push through him or knock him over. However, he’s quicker than CP3 while also being very instinctive. Here are a few examples of Moore’s versatility on defense.

Deron Williams is not the player he once was, but he is still a big guard that is at his best when posting up. Watch how Moore patiently allows Williams to nudge him and create a seemingly safe distance with his off arm. E’Twaun allows Williams to have a few dribbles so that the illusion of security is there. As Deron starts to back him down, Moore takes one quick step to the side, uses his reach, and a Trevor Ariza-like jabbing quickness to knock the ball out while also putting enough distance between his body and Deron’s so that he can’t be called for a foul.

In this Vine video Moore shows off his ability to avoid contact while being screened, read an entry pass, recover and make a second leap to force a tough shot. Moore knows where the ball is going from the second Raymond Felton cuts. He avoids Dirk’s wet paper bag of a screen attempt and gets himself in position to perfectly time his leap to break up the entry pass. Felton doesn’t catch the ball cleanly, making him take an off-balance shot. E’Twaun’s reaction time and ability to double jump like a cat trapped between two cucumbers allows him to make the shot even tougher.

Here Moore uses his quickness, length, ability to read the passing lane, and penchant for guarding his man up-and-down the entire 94’ of the court to break up a pass nearly causing an eight second violation.

Again, Moore hounds Williams for 94’ feet preventing a shot at the buzzer. Watch his footwork. He does a great job of moving Williams where he wants him, then perfectly times his jump for the block.

E’Twaun will likely share the court with at least one other weak defender every night, so his defensive IQ and physical tools will be heavily relied upon in help defense. Here Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol do very little to prevent an entry pass to Zaza Pachulia. Moore leaves his man to front Zaza preventing a drive or an open midrange jumper. He has the quickness to get back to the corner preventing the open three, then rides his man’s hip steering him into Gasol forcing him to pass out and reset.

One of Moore’s greatest assets is defending without fouling. Here he picks up a barreling Kyle Lowry at top speed, and stays stride for stride with him to the rim forcing a tough shot in the closing minutes to seal the win. Lowry is an All-Star who gets All-Star calls. Moore is a bit of an unknown — Lowry will always get the benefit of a call in this matchup if there is even the slightest bit of contact. At full speed Moore has the body control to be in great position while avoiding the contact.

If you attended or read any tweets or quotes from the Pelicans’ media day, then you know the needle was skipping on, “emphasis on two-way players” and “versatility.” Moore is the greatest representation of those buzzwords on the roster. While Solomon Hill has very little tape showing that we can rely on his offense — Moore doesn’t have to hook a car battery up to a single playoff series and maneuver it through traffic preserving his one shining moment thus far in his career.

Against the Kings, Moore showed some nice scoring variety.

We see him running around screens, taking a step back to create enough space to shoot over Willie Cauley-Stein. His shooting ability allows him to pump fake and then drive off of the baseline and reveal a really nice floater. During media day he said his role on offense will be to play off of the creators and hit the open shot. You will see Moore get to the corner and demonstrate his catch-and-shoot ability as Gasol feeds him from the elbow. I envision a lot of two-man game action between Moore and Anthony Davis to create similar looks.

In the above clip we also get to see him shoot off of the dribble in transition, which should be a huge part of Gentry’s offense. He’s fearless in the paint — driving straight at DeMarcus Cousins and lofting a floater over his head. Moore also shows that he can be a one-man fastbreak, collecting a loose ball, running the floor, splitting two defenders, getting to the rim and drawing a foul.

With Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans out for the foreseeable future, the Pelicans will need more perimeter players to step up their playmaking. Moore is a combo guard that has enough passing ability and vision to keep the team afloat. His ability to read the floor and set a teammate up is what we thought we were going to get from Gordon, but it never materialized. We’d see Gordon pick up a loose ball or catch a pass in transition trailing an open teammate (most often it was Anthony Davis), but instead of getting him the ball, Gordon would take a bad shot or over-dribble into a turnover. On the first play of the following highlights, Moore shows that he is not only a willing passer in transition, but that he also can fit a pass through a tight window for a teammate in better position to finish.

I’m hoping that Alvin Gentry paid extra special attention to this game because we get a lot of Moore running around screens and cutting to the hoop catching passes in stride from Pau Gasol. These off ball cuts should be a bigger part of the Pelicans offense; Anthony Davis is a very good playmaking big man. Moore, Evans, Stephenson, Hield and Holiday are all very efficient when finishing off of cuts. Moore also shows off his ability to finish through contact as he drives through the much bigger Andrew Wiggins finishing with a beautiful teardrop floater.

At the 6 second mark of this package, Moore shows off his ability to blow by a defender and then switch hands in the air to get a clean shot when the defender — Russell Westbrook — recovers. Shortly after, we see his ability to read the ball, get the offensive rebound in mid-air, and convert the putback. He also shows off his clutch gene knocking down the game winning three over Westbrook even with a bit of contact.

Aside from clearly being that two-way player the Pelicans made a priority this summer, Moore is also tremendously versatile. Defensively he can guard the 1-3. He can play the point offensively for short stretches, but I think his greatest value is allowing Alvin Gentry to play three guards together once Jrue Holiday returns to the team. The prospect of a Holiday, Hield, Moore, Hill and Davis lineup has me smiling like I’ve overdosed on Joker products.

Moore’s presence also allows the coaching staff to bring Buddy Hield along slowly if he isn’t ready for a huge role early on. Moore fits well next to Tim Frazier, offsetting Tim’s defensive liabilities while benefiting greatly from Frazier’s playmaking. After this season, I’m pretty sure NBA2K will replace that fat baby head from one of those Eddie Murphy movies where he plays all of the parts that they’ve given E’Twaun with a more detailed rendering that could possibly fill the Tyreke Evans sized hole in my videogaming heart — respect will be earned.

The E’Twaun Moore signing as a super nerdy snap battle comeback: