Of all the Moses Moody highlights this preseason, two immediately come to mind — two of which probably won’t top the list in most people’s memories whenever he and the things he’s been doing for the Golden State Warriors as of late get brought up.
These two clips are similar in their setup, identical in their result, and groundbreaking in terms what it could mean for the Warriors’ offense. When you consider how NBA teams nowadays opt to defend drives down the middle of the court, Moody is built to feast on schemes that send an extra man toward the “nail” — the area approximating the middle of the free-throw line — to slow down ball handlers’ attempts to penetrate.
Curiously enough, both instances involved two-way-contract player Lester Quiñones, who has shown quite a knack for finding players left open on the wing or slot upon drawing a “nail” defender on his middle drives. In Summer League and preseason, Quiñones has been the focus of half-court sets intended to get him downhill, which has been a surefire way for him to find the open kick-out target one pass away:
Placing Quiñones on a corner and running him off of staggered screens or dribble handoffs will almost always draw away an extra defender from the weak side — but the other side of that equation involves choosing who to stash on the slot or wing to make nail defenders have to choose.
Do you help off your man to stunt, dig, or even fully commit to a switch at the nail (called a “next” switch)? Do you stay home and hope your teammate is able to fight over and stick to his man around the screen?
More often than not, it’ll be Steph Curry or Klay Thompson in Quiñones’ role as the mobile advantage creator off of the aforementioned staggered screens or handoffs. The other could be the spacer parked in the slot/wing area — and based on how teams have defended them over the years, help at the nail won’t be seen that often, which may open the lane for middle penetration.
Even with Chris Paul as the man being defended by the designated nail defender, you can see how difficult it is to help off of him, which can open up plenty of attacking lanes — especially whenever they empty a corner:
Other times, the Warriors — especially in second-unit configurations where Curry sits down and are looking for sources of offensive production without their main engine — will need to replace the role of the player who will force nail decisions from the defense. If preseason is of any indication, that is where Moody will slot right in.
We’ve already seen flashes of how Moody punishes a defense in rotation during last season’s playoffs series against the Sacramento Kings:
With Thompson drawing two defenders around the ball screen and Looney’s roll drawing in the low man, Moody “shakes” (lifts) from the corner toward the wing and makes himself available for the open look. The lift makes the closeout distance longer, making sure that the low man can’t recover on time to effectively contest the shot.
In a vacuum, those are the minute decisions that will help win games. Over the long run, being able to drill those shots will what helps him not only be part of the rotation — it’ll help him stick around much longer this time.
Going back to Quiñones and his penchant for middle penetration, the two possessions alluded to in the beginning of this piece both involved Moody as the man enforcing nail decisions from the defense. Off of a missed shot, decisions at the nail need to be especially quick and authoritative.
Moody’s shot is built to punish whichever quick decision the nail defender makes, especially against quick-hitting “Delay” action in a 5-out configuration where the floor is spaced and help can easily be punished one pass away:
Even a slight help off of the wing by De’Aaron Fox in the clip above gives Moody enough space to drill the three. He has been hovering at around league average in his regular season career in terms of three-point makes — he shot 36.4% in his rookie season (on 6.6 attempts per 75 possessions) and 36.3% last season (5.9 attempts per 75 possessions).
In this preseason alone, Moody is 12-of-22 on threes (54.5%) — a bullish indicator that he’s ready to graduate from a league-average shooter who can occasionally demand attention, to that of an above-average sniper who must demand attention in nearly every moment of the game.
If defenses opt not to change their coverages and rules on Moody, sights like these will become much more common:
If the shot does translate to something tangibly lethal, he can even become the focal point of certain half-court sets and after-timeout (ATO) plays. Kerr even took the time to call a timeout in a preseason game that was well on its way to becoming a San Antonio Spurs win to at least make the deficit respectable, with an outside chance at forcing overtime.
Moody was the intended recipient of the ATO — called “Phoenix” — which was a play typically designated for Thompson:
(Curiously enough, Kerr ran “Phoenix” against Gregg Popovich, who made it a part of his playbook with the Spurs. Popovich himself lifted “Phoenix” from Mike D’Antoni, who concocted the set during his time as head coach of the Suns — hence the name of the set.)
Naturally, there are more questions to be asked of Moody that he must answer. The other end of the floor is another thing — while he profiles as a versatile wing defender with the physical tools (e.g., a 7’1” wingspan) that raise his ceiling, he has yet to actually come into his own as a stopper, despite flashes of such manifesting from time to time.
(Read this article from player development specialist and Warriors Twitter must-follow Charlie Cummings that focuses on Moody’s defense.)
But surrounded with plenty of grownups in the room and a work ethic that seems to be bearing fruit, Moody is ready to slot into the rotation spot that was meant for him the moment he was drafted by the Warriors two years ago. All he needed to do was to grab the opportunity and prove to Kerr and the coaching staff that they have no choice but to make use of his services.