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E’Twaun Moore eyes shooting guard position in starting lineup next season for Pelicans

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New Orleans has identified a need for shooters around Davis and Cousins so expect Moore to get another chance to seize the role.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

E’Twaun Moore’s overall season numbers were steady, but they did run parallel to some rather mundane levels. In 24.9 minutes per contest, he averaged 9.6 points, 2.2 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.1 threes.

Alvin Gentry echoed these sentiments in yesterday’s season-ending press conference.

“He’s just a real solid guy who just added so much to us that sometimes I think he can get lost in the shuffle of just being that consistent, solid guy. Sometimes he’s not noticed, but I thought he had a really good year for us.”

Moore appeared in the third most games, averaged the fifth most points and proved to be one of the most dependable role players on both sides of the ball. The oft-used term, ‘glue guy,’ should quickly spring to mind. Yet, when asked about his future on the team, Moore did not want to assume his role would remain the same next season.

“I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll see over the summer. I’m not sure if it’s going to stay like that or it’s going {to be} a starting role. I don’t know. Whatever works best for the team, honestly. To me, who doesn’t want to start and look cool?”

Moore, the consummate teammate, finished this line of thinking by pointing out it’s all about winning games at the end of the day — something New Orleans immensely struggled to do on a consistent basis. No surprise, changes have been called for from fans, media and team personnel alike, but I’d like to point out today to not overlook a specific internal option.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Although Moore posted a lofty 45.2% three-point percentage with the Bulls one year ago, his 37.0 3FG% this season was still a productive figure. That’s the same mark Damian Lillard posted and it sits mere percentage points behind Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, and sixth man candidate, Eric Gordon. Outside of Jordan Crawford, there was not a perimeter player who posted a higher true shooting percentage on the Pelicans.

Moore’s perimeter shooting will be key going forward because it represents a viable avenue at improving the lineups around Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, especially if free agency and trade waters come up dry.

“We have to be able to shoot it consistently from the perimeter in order to take away the double teams,” replied Gentry in answering how the Pelicans can become a more effective unit.

With a core of Davis-Cousins-Hill-Holiday, care to guess which player made for the best fit?

Minutes Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating REB% TS%
Davis-Cousins-Holiday-Hill-Moore 80 111.7 95.3 +16.4 54.4% 59.8%
Davis-Cousins-Holiday-Hill-Crawford 47 118.3 103.9 +14.4 50.6% 60.4%
Davis-Cousins-Holiday-Hill-Thompson 81 94.8 87.2 +7.6 50.0% 46.3%
Davis-Cousins-Holiday-Hill-Frazier 99 106.0 102.4 +3.5 48.2% 55.1%

Look how wonderfully lineups featuring a perimeter-oriented scorer alongside the typical four starters performed. No wonder New Orleans has already prioritized adding more shooting to the roster for next season! (Also, remember this table because I’ll use it to explain whether Jrue Holiday is best suited at point guard or alongside another PG.)

As mentioned earlier, Crawford wound up the team’s biggest perimeter threat, but it sometimes came at a price. Although a Davis-Cousins-Crawford trio posted a really good 109.4 Offensive Rating, the Defensive Rating (105.4) was a little on the high side. Furthermore, this +3.9 Net Rating was easily outdone by Moore’s inclusion alongside the All-Star Duo. Davis-Cousins-Moore combined for a 107.8 ORtg and a 101.2 DRtg for a +6.5 Net — a seriously enticing number. Don’t forget that all of these statistics are buoyed by a career-year shooting the ball by Crawford while Moore left room for individual bounce back potential on offense.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Moore started 22 games for the New Orleans Pelicans with most of those starts lumped together early in the season — well before Cousins arrived in New Orleans. It’s a shame so many have jumped aboard the Holiday-needs-to-play-with-another-point-guard bandwagon because the numbers indicate pairing Jrue with another combo guard may prove the best solution. What’s the sense in adding a Ricky Rubio or Darren Collison if Holiday doesn’t ever develop a catch and shoot-first mentality and Davis and Cousins continue to enjoy beginning a lot of possessions?

Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps said in the season-ending presser, “E’Twaun was pretty consistent all year” and “a guy we expected.” I’d argue there could be a little more under that hood, at least enough that’s worth exploring next pre-season.

ESPN’s Real Plus Minus was a fan of Chicago Moore (34th rated SG) a lot more than the New Orleans version (57th). If he could find a way to get back to being the former player or even taking a step forward and emulating say a Gary Harris (RPM jump of 46th to 19th), he could make for one of the best fits — a low usage, high efficiency player who prides himself on defense and being physical — in the Pelicans starting lineup

E’Twaun Moore, always accepting of any role given by the coaching staff, settled in as a reserve guard for much of the 2016-17 season, yet don’t make the mistake of penciling him in for more of the same come next fall.