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E’Twaun Moore off to fantastic start and has evolved well beyond glue guy role for New Orleans Pelicans

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He is more valuable than a member of the support system for Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis as his elite offensive skills and talents propel the Pelicans’ offense to greater heights.

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NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s just be honest with one another: I am an unabashed E’Twaun Moore homer.

From his time in Chicago — and even earlier in Orlando, I have been absolutely infatuated with his basketball resiliency, his soft and steady scoring touch inside the perimeter, his unapologetic and instantaneous long-range trigger, and his penchant to do whatever the team asks, with little to no regard for his own preferences.

Even his hairline is spectacular!

A less than widely known fact, the New Orleans Pelicans offered life-changing money to a young player hailing from Purdue University who had earned less than four million dollars through his first five professional seasons of basketball. When he accepted a four-year, $34 million contract with New Orleans, Moore was considered to be the placeholder at shooting guard until Buddy Hield was ready to grab the reins. Moore has held tightly to his starting position through three seasons though, paying back general manager Dell Demps’ investment and then some with a team-leading 169 games since donning a New Orleans uniform.

Availability hasn’t been Moore’s only elite skill. His scoring threshold from beyond the perimeter stripe draws the most attention, and the faith afforded to him has paid off handsomely as he’s enjoying his best season to date with an absurd 49% shooting-stroke — and an even more grandiose 64% effective field goal percentage to go along with his 56% from the field overall. His three-point efficiency puts him fifth in the NBA among shooters with 50 or more attempts, and his ridiculous eFG% puts him just behind Joe Harris and Stephen Curry among all qualifying backcourt players.

For the first time in his career, Moore is averaging over 20 points per 100 possessions — 23.6 to be exact, or in other words, 1.30 points per shot attempt, leaving him in the upper tier of the NBA (93%) and prompting the question: Has E’Twaun been underutilized during his time in New Orleans, especially now?

We’ll circle back to that.

Moore is shooting a slightly higher volume but with a much higher efficiency in the early-season sample size. Remember, we saw Moore shoot 57.8% from three last December to only drop to 32.1% in the following month. His current numbers could inevitably regress to the mean, but here’s the important fact: E’Twaun has so many other elite scoring skills that occur inside the stripe.

E’Twaun Moore is dangerous from literally everywhere on the court. His underrated finishing touch puts him at 71% at the rim (per BBall Reference), and his deadly combination of runners and floaters puts him in unfathomable company, shooting 65% from 5-14 feet out per NBA.Com/Stats.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Per Blake Murphy of the Athletic:

Per Cleaning the Glass, this is the sixth consecutive season in which Moore is taking a 90th percentile or higher volume of his shots in that area and it’s the fourth time in the last five years that he’s been in the 95th percentile or better converting those shots.

Narrowing that range to 4-to-10 feet, Moore is tied with noted master of the floater DeMar DeRozan for the best mark in that range among non-bigs, and only Jonas Valnciunas and KAT are better among bigs. Moore led the NBA by shooting 54% in that area a year ago, with the next-best player of any position coming in at 51.3%.

Moore’s offensive value cannot be oversold.

Per 100 possessions, the Pelicans’ offensive rating increases by +16.3 when Moore is on the floor. At just -2.3 defensively per 100 possessions, his +14 effect trails only Anthony Davis (an obscene +26).

We’ve diagnosed the three-point shot, the runner, the floater and his elite finishing prowess and we’ve even seen him carry high-volume scoring into back-to-back performances against the Raptors and Timberwolves. Should we mention his new hook shot?

But his movement away from the ball is another skill worthy of your consideration, not just for the space it creates for himself, but the space it creates for teammates as the defense must now account for one of the league’s five best shooters.

Moore’s movement on offense works as a decoy spectacularly for give and go opportunities with Jrue Holiday, but every once in awhile, he catches the defense napping and attacks.

So why is one of the NBA’s most efficient scorers fourth in field goal attempts on his own team? Believe it or not, Moore trails Anthony Davis (19.0), Nikola Mirotic (16.0), Jrue Holiday (15.6), and is practically tied with Julius Randle with just over 11 shots per game.

Could it be that Moore is only available and proficient in spot-up situations when given space to operate as afforded by the more talented one-on-one scorers? Not really, as E’Twaun Moore shoots over 50% whether afforded space to shoot or not. Even in closely contested situations, he leads the team’s regulars in effective field goal percentage.

Are we sure E’Twaun isn’t most effective in spot up situations? Yes, Moore is nearly as effective and still elite whether he shoots the ball in under two seconds (58%), or up to six seconds (55%).

With the return of Pelicans point guard Elfrid Payton, and his ten shots per game around the corner, Moore’s new found volume will almost certainly decline. Either that, or Moore may find himself relegated to the bench as we recently discussed on “The Bird Calls Podcast.” Yet, it’s high time for the success earned to translate into more opportunities for Moore, not tomorrow, now — at least while he’s hot.

In my opinion, giving E’Twaun Moore the reins over the second unit would prove a mistake. Like Holiday, Moore commands the height of his powers when playing in an off-ball scoring role as evidenced by his precipitous drop in efficiency when dribbling for six or more seconds (33%, small sample size). While Moore could thrive with the greater volume, the more likely scenario would involve the defense rotating and trapping him, and there is no evidence to suggest that Moore possesses the ball-handling skills or facilitative skills to navigate such heavy concentration from opposing units. This is a role where Elfrid Payton would seemingly thrive.

No, Moore belongs with the starters and one has to believe the team has given him the green light to shoot as much as he damn well pleases. It’s now up to him to build off of his latest week’s exploits and continue to evolve within the offense. Should the Pelicans embrace Moore’s recent successes, and build upon them, they may unlock yet another level to the Pelicans’ now seventh-rated offense.

For more on E’Twaun’s fit with the starters versus his increased role off the bench, download our latest episode!