To be a late-lottery pick in the NBA often means you have to fight for whatever scrap of attention you can get.
Moses Moody — the 14th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft — isn’t a name that has often stood out this season, except maybe if you’re poking fun at Kendrick Perkins. Out of the two lottery picks the Warriors were able to draft, Moody was widely expected to be the one most ready to contribute — which wasn’t the case early on.
Despite the sparse minutes, he carried himself like a veteran, while also seemingly eager to learn from actual veterans. He celebrated his teammates’ successes while staying glued to the bench. He watched as his fellow rookie, Jonathan Kuminga, absorbed more playing time — but not a peep of complaint was heard from him.
In many ways, such body language provides a glimpse of who a player is all about. Moody is, first and foremost, a team player. But he’s also patient; he bides his time, knowing that sooner or later, his chance to showcase his basketball wares will present itself.
And once that chance comes, he’ll make the most of it.
The signs of Moody’s emergence were already there. His stint with the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League enabled him to play in a low-pressure environment against inferior competition. Notable Santa Cruz alumni such as Jordan Poole have proven that the G League is a factory for improvement and building confidence.
Moody’s confidence in the G League was sky high, averaging 31.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.8 steals, and 0.8 blocks, on 52/41/80 shooting splits and 67.8% True Shooting. Even if such numbers should be tempered by the fact that they came against inferior teams and players, they are nevertheless predictive.
Peep at that three-point percentage by Moody in the G League — 41.3% — to see his potential as a floor spacer and bona-fide sharpshooter. Even more jaw-dropping: his 11.5 three-point-attempts per game. To shoot above 40% on nearly 12 attempts per game is, dare I say it, Curry-esque.
The obvious question that follows such numbers, however, is this: Will the hot shooting translate over to the big leagues? If this two-game sample — albeit, an extremely small sample — is of any indication, Moody’s accuracy from long range is justifying his trigger-happy tendencies.
(Not that being trigger happy is in any way a negative trait in this case; if you can shoot it, shoot it!)
Being on the floor with floor-warping all-time greats such as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will get you plenty of open looks. When playing with teammates who attract a boatload of attention all to themselves, the onus is on you to punish defenses who leave you wide open.
Moody — when playing alongside two of the greatest shooters of all time — is showing that he’s capable of doling out such punishment.
The first thing that should be commended is Moody being aware of arguably the number-one rule embedded within this Warriors offense: Screen for a shooter whenever a shooter is nearby — which is exactly what he does for Curry.
The Houston Rockets’ young defenders botch the switch above due to confusion with who should be picking up Curry on the cut — but Curry creating confusion is nothing new, and it leaves Moody wide open for a three that he buries.
Later on, when Thompson finds himself drawing plenty of attention on a drive, he finds Moody spaced out at the top of the arc.
You can’t blame the Rockets for committing virtually nothing toward Moody on the possessions above. It was likely drilled into their minds that Moody — prior to the game against the Rockets — was shooting a measly 14.7% on threes, on only 1.3 attempts per game.
Defenders can only respond to what the scouting report is saying; Moody’s job is to smash the scouting report and create an updated one for opposing teams to absorb.
And over the last two games against the Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs, Moody has been putting a hammer to his perceived reputation as a non-threat from the outside by shooting a combined 9-of-15 (60%) on threes.
Even without Curry and Thompson beside him to draw attention away, Moody has been finding pockets of space to get his shot off. Akin to what he did for Curry in the clip above, he himself becomes the beneficiary of the screen-for-a-nearby-shooter rule, when Jonathan Kuminga sets a sneaky down-screen to set Moody free for a look.
The hot shooting continued throughout the game against the Spurs, with Moody getting to his spots and letting loose without a moment of hesitation. The common theme with all of the Moody threes below: generation of good looks through constant advantage creation.
A surefire way to not only earn minutes but to keep those minutes is being able to cap off advantage possessions — and Moody has certainly shown that he’s capable of capping possessions off.
The threat of Moody catching and shooting around the screen was even used by Steve Kerr on an excellent play design after a timeout. Kerr has been great all season long with these ATOs (after-timeout plays):
There are many moving parts in the design above. What looks like “UCLA/Hawk” action for Chris Chiozza turns into a “Zipper” cut for Chiozza to receive the ball.
Moody then sets a back-screen for Quinndary Weatherspoon, who attracts two defenders. This forces Kuminga’s defender to jump out toward Moody to prevent him from catching the ball, which frees Kuminga on the slip for the dive cut and finish.
On the other end of the floor, Moody continues to be a work in progress, albeit a promising work in progress. His defensive effort is admirable; he knows which spots to get to in order to stop a drive or contest a shot. He seems aware of schemes, which portends a good career as a team defender.
Discipline as a defender is a rare commodity, especially among first-year NBA players who have yet to acclimatize themselves to NBA-level offenses and NBA-level scoring. Moody showing discipline on a close-out, followed by active feet and laterality, belies his status as a greenhorn.
Kerr has also been impressed with Moody’s defense for a good reason. This is a beautiful closeout on Josh Christopher, a fine shooter but better rim threat, to keep him from doing either. He moves well on Jaygup to close off the drive and force him into a turnaround jumper pic.twitter.com/YiCMkDG5TW— Charlie Cummings (@klaytheist11) February 2, 2022
As a whole, his defense can be graded as “almost there, but not quite.” Against the Rockets, his verticality on contests were almost perfect, if not for a couple of last-second downward arm movements and bumps in the air that were unavoidable due to forward momentum,
Against the Spurs, one particular moment stood out: almost drawing a charge, and almost beating the offensive player to the spot.
The operative word for Moody is effort. His activity on defense and audacity on offense is turning heads. He is earning minutes through plainly being an impact player. The threes may already be there; the defense is trending upward, and with further cultivation, it could one day transcend to above-average — maybe even elite — levels.
But effort that translates to wins is what will keep Moody on the floor — and drawing plenty of attention to himself — for several years to come.