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2019-20 Player Preview: Don’t give up on E’Twaun Moore

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The sharp-shooting swing man dealt with a variety of injuries in a disappointing 2018-19 campaign. Now, the NBA’s sixth-best three-point shooter should be ready to reclaim his value in a contract season.

New Orleans Pelicans Media Day Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

I’ve always been an unabashed E’Twaun Moore fan. From his silky, smooth jumper to his tear-drop runner, Moore is the perfect complementary scoring piece for a good team, perhaps like the New Orleans Pelicans.

A man without much consideration for himself, Moore has always stepped into whatever role Alvin Gentry deemed necessary. But as is typical of a star-driven, underachieving team with lofty aspirations, the “help” (as is often referred) takes the blunt of the castigation when the organization fails to meet said expectations.

E’Twaun Moore has taken plenty of criticism during his time in New Orleans and perhaps rightfully so in some circumstances. Playing in just 53 games in 2018-19, Moore was the sixth-best three-point shooter and yet he averaged about three attempts from that range per game.

“I want to shoot more threes,” Moore said at media day. “Last year I only shot three threes a game. They want me to shoot more, like six. That’ll make things easier for everyone else on the court.”

The Pelicans would welcome a more aggressive Moore. A left quad bruise plagued him for too much of the past season, negating some of the lift that made him such a critical part of the Pelicans’ success. If healthy, that’ll be his ticket to playing time. Solid defensive contributions would help too. The Pelicans were simply dreadful on that end of the floor before Davis’ trade request in late January. Some of that blame goes to Moore, who’s been forced to play out of position at the small forward position.

Is that criticism justified?

Rather emphatically, we can answer that question as ‘no.’

Moore was pressed into action at the three during the last few seasons as evidenced by 42% and 61% of his minutes in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively. And guess, what? The Pelicans thrived.

According to Cleaning the Glass, the Pelicans were 4.7 and 7.0 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor. For much of last season, Moore was second to Holiday in said category according to Basketball Reference.

Offensively, Moore has the ability to unlock an NBA offense, making it dynamic in ways that make players like Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday a lot more successful.

Defensively, we witnessed Moore get destroyed by Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston in the 2017-18 NBA playoffs. He didn’t have the necessary foot speed, physicality and/or size to matchup. It’s not in his toolbox. But when paired against CJ McCollum, Damian Lillard, and Klay Thompson, the Pelicans were 12.1, 14.9 and 3.6 point better (according to NBA.com/Stats).

Andrew Wiggins has always thrived against Moore, using his length as an advantage. The Wolves were 15 points better when the two were matched up in 2018-19. By the same token, the Pelicans were also 39.4 points better when matched against CJ McCollum, 21.4 against Bradley Beal, 9.8 against Danny Green, 19.8 against JJ Redick and 8.1 against Kyle Lowry.

While Moore’s defensive game might not be the prettiest on film — and one should take into account the help defense of players like Holiday and Davis, the fact of the matter remains that Moore can make a positive impact on the floor, specifically at small forward, when the situation is right.

Moore’s 2017-18 success bled into 2018-19 in dramatic fashion through the first six weeks of the season. Recall what Blake Murphy of the Athletic wrote last year:

“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 Valanciunas and Karl-Anthony Towns 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%.”

As last season fell apart, Moore and his cap-friendly deal quickly became a discussion of trade fodder the Pelicans sought to unload in order to gain assets.

Now, with a plethora of young and veteran talent alike, Moore finds himself on the outside looking in. With a backcourt including Holiday, Frank Jackson, JJ Redick, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, is there really enough room for Moore to thrive?

At small forward, the Pelicans will likely need to split reps with Hart and Redick behind Brandon Ingram. Kenrich Williams might even scrape his way into a couple of minutes at the position.

As Steve Clifford, the head coach of the Orlando Magic, said at this past media day, players need minutes to play well. If a coach plays more than eight or nine players, performances become at risk. So, how do you justify minutes for a soon-to-be 31-year-old in the final year of his deal over developing youthful talent around Zion Williamson?

Alvin Gentry will need all of the shooting he can muster. Outside of JJ Redick and possibly Nicolo Melli, the Pels don’t have a shooter on the roster who shoots above league average. Moore’s game marries perfectly to Ball’s as well as Zion’s. And as we mentioned earlier, the Pelicans are always definitively better with Moore on the floor.

  • In 203 minutes, the 2017-18 Pelicans were a positive 18.3 per 100 possessions with a lineup of Rondo - Holiday - Moore - Mirotic - AD.
  • In 71 minutes, the 2018-19 Pelicans were a positive 29.5 per 100 possessions with a lineup of Payton - Holiday - Moore - Mirotic - AD.
  • In 116 minutes, the 2018-19 Pelicans were a positive 21.8 per 100 possession with a lineup of Payton - Holiday - Moore - Randle - AD.

Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin says he wants to “beat people’s ass.”

Then play E’Twaun Moore.

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