Moses Moody has excelled at multiple levels and he arrives in the NBA at a young age. The 3-and-D prospect also questions what we think about wings in the draft.
Pop quiz: What’s the most in-demand skill set in the current NBA ecosystem (not counting superstar shot creators)?
A) A low-post center with questionable footspeed
B) A point guard who can’t shoot or defend but can kinda-sorta pass, or
C) A defensively versatile, sweet-shooting wing with at least minor creation upside
If you answered C, congratulations, you’re a TKW-certified Basketball Genius™! Every team is looking for those players, and they are both rare and expensive to find on the free-agent market—that’s how you get situations like the Kings signing 34-year-old Trevor Ariza to a two-year, $25 million contract as recently as two seasons ago.
Getting one of those guys on a rookie contract can be massively important to maximizing a team’s ceiling, as it allows them to use money that would otherwise be spent on the most expensive non-star archetype elsewhere. This is especially true for a team with rapidly ascending ambitions and a shrinking window to spend on outside talent like the Knicks.
Enter Moses Moody
First play of the game, Moses Moody hits an off-balance, off-movement 3. Such a great off-ball player pic.twitter.com/WpyObrFlLa
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) December 31, 2020
Moses Moody is likely a trade-up target, and funnily enough, the Knicks have been rumored to be looking to trade up for weeks now. And while he might not have the traditional star upside of a typical trade-up target, if the Knicks have a chance to make a move for him, they absolutely should.
First off, let’s get to know the young wing a bit better
Having just turned 19 in May, Moody is the seventh-youngest player in this year’s draft. He measured in at last week’s combine at 6’6″ in shoes with nearly a 7’1 wingspan at over 210 pounds, which is absolutely ideal size for guarding either wing position. He has the fourth-widest and eighth-longest hands of anyone tested at the combine, and not only are his hands big, but they also are strong and he knows how to use them.
Moses Moody’s hands are so strong
(there is a Moody piece coming) pic.twitter.com/fj6X3GN0Rr
— CJ Marchesani (@cjmarchesani) February 18, 2021
So why isn’t he a guaranteed top-five pick?
I have him in the five-to-eight range, personally, but not everyone does. The reasons for being lower on him mostly stem from a perceived lack of upside, beginning with this crucial detail: he’s a solidly below-average athlete, lacking both explosion and quick-twitchiness. He’s smart in how he utilizes his length, but he’s going to need to be smarter than most if he’s going to use that length to effectively compensate against high-level athletes in the NBA.
Now we know Moody the athlete, but who is Moody the player?
Moody played with fellow draft prospects Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, and Day’Ron Sharpe, as well as 2022 top-10 prospect Caleb Houston at powerhouse Montverde in high school, which means he’s had plenty of experience blending with great talents, including playmaking forwards. But at Arkansas this year, he was the man, leading the team in scoring as an 18-year-old freshman despite playing a role that saw him off-ball fairly often. Having experience in both roles bodes well for his ability to fit into different circumstances and systems in the NBA.
Off-ball is the place where Moody shines brightest. He’s a great relocator and mover, coming off of screens to get easy looks, as well as using his high release point to shoot over contests. If you leave him alone on the perimeter, it’s a bucket—part of why pairing him with guys known for finding open shooters like R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle is so appealing.
While he’s not likely to be an elite isolation scorer, he’s got a bit more juice there than he generally gets credit for (watch the end of the video below for some flashes of very interesting pull-up shot creation).
Critics will point to his .358 three-point percentage, and that’s fair to an extent, as it’s not an elite number. He didn’t hit on the same level as guys like Devin Vassell or Mikal Bridges (both of whom were multi-year college players, for what it’s worth) did during their pre-draft season, but he’s pretty clearly a super high-level shooting prospect, partially because there is still room for improvement.
The most obvious one is his release speed. Moody’s shot isn’t slow, but it’s not as fast as it could be. He also has a slow dip at times coming off of screens that gives defenders a split second more recovery time than they would have otherwise. If he can speed the release up just a little bit, it would help him be an even more dangerous off-ball player and would help him get his shot off in a more diverse range of ways.
Despite having a pretty limited handle (more on this in a minute) and lacking the footspeed to blow by guys, Moody is also surprisingly good at getting to the basket and either scoring or drawing fouls. Moody was fifth in the NCAA in free throws made this season and had six games with at least 10 free-throw attempts this season. Not only does he get into the paint, but he has good instincts in drawing fouls on the perimeter, though he could stand to be even more aggressive on that end.
Let this sink in: His Free Throw Rate of .482 would rank somewhere between Trae Young and DeMar DeRozan if it carried over to the NBA. That’s incredible for someone viewed in the mainstream as mostly a catch-and-shoot specialist.
He’s not a great finisher around the basket, but once again, I think he’s a little better than he gets credit for. He has really nice touch on his floater and is good at searching out his spots and using a combination of strength and patience to get his defenders out of his way. As he gets older and stronger, those skills will only improve.
While Moody isn’t a great or instinctive passer, he does something that all good 3-and-D wings need to do: move the ball quickly. He tends to make his mind up quickly and either attack or swing the ball around the perimeter. On a team with a lot of dribblers and thinkers (Randle, Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and Obi Toppin all qualify to an extent), having someone who makes quick decisions is crucial.
And besides, it’s not like the guy can’t pass:
While he’ll never be confused with a point-forward, there are enough flashes of recognition to make me believe that he’ll be able to find open guys off of hard close-outs and scramble situations, which is a key tool for a wing of this particular archetype.
Impressive no look pass by Moses Moody, manipulating the defense which frees up the pass to Desi Sills cutting baseline for the layup pic.twitter.com/sC2TPE7KYA
— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) February 7, 2021
The truth of the matter is that for a 3-and-D to be effective in the NBA, they can’t just be those two things. They have to have some kind of way to punish defenses for overplaying the shot, and Moody, between his free throw rate and his ability to find open guys, should be able to do just that.
There’s also the matter of his rebounding. Moody was one of the best rebounding guards in college basketball this year, using a combination of length, positioning, and pure fight to bring down tough boards over taller players. While guard rebounding may not be the most crucial skill in the world, his willingness to do the little things, scrap on every possession, and put the team first makes him a guy worth betting on.
But for all of his offensive intrigue, Moody’s calling card will always be on the defensive end.
Moody’s impact on that end of the floor is clear from the first time you see him. He’s got great hands, times his rim protection well, and has great instincts as a help defender. He maps the floor really well and is ridiculously good at contesting shots without fouling. Most importantly, he uses his length and body as a point of attack defender to deter drives without fouling.
And of course, there’s the willingness, mentioned above, to sacrifice his body for the team. Moody is a hustler in the truest sense of the word, willing to dive for loose balls, take charges, and otherwise do all the little things that make coaches and teammates love him and opposing teams fear him.
It’s worth noting that, as of now, Moody is more of a really, really good defender than an elite one. The biggest reason for this is also the one that’s going to be the most crucial for whatever team drafts him: his footspeed.
Moody tends to open up really wide angles as a defender, thinking that he’s got the length to generally bother shots even when blown by. The problem is, he’s slow enough that that’s not always the case. It can be hard for him to recover against quicker guards, and at the next level, most guards are going to be quicker. The team that takes him will need to put some time and energy into building up his quickness and getting his feet moving quicker.
The other factor that puts a limit on his ceiling is his lack of handle. Bag Twitter, as it’s known, will come away from watching Moody attack defenses thoroughly unimpressed, and for good reason. His dribble is high and slow, and he relies on stride length and strength to get to his spots, as opposed to counters and guile. He also has the bad habit of killing his dribble unnecessarily, leaving him stuck in tight spots far more often than you’d like.
The truth is, Moses Moody probably isn’t going to be some kind of 10-time All-Star-like guys such as Cade Cunningham or Evan Mobley, or even Jalen Green, have the potential to be.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have upside. In Moody’s case, upside just takes a slightly different understanding than the one we may be used to. The upside for Moody would be about adjustments, tweaks that allow him to reach a higher level as a scorer, and year-over-year improvement on his body that allow him to be an even more intimidating defender.
One thing that I would want to see from whatever coach gets their hands on 19-year-old Moody is for them to try to build more of a chucker’s mentality from him. I know that sounds counterintuitive for a guy who gets so much value from his great understanding of himself and the game. But the thing is, sometimes you just gotta have a little “f–k it” to you. Moody sometimes falls into similar traps that guys like Killian Hayes and Theo Maledon do. Both French rookies had up-and-down years, and one thing that was clear with each of them was that they constantly focused on making “the right” play.
Which is good! At least, it’s good at times. Sometimes, though, this limited them from trying more audacious passes, putting up more “no-no-YES” shots, and otherwise making mind-boggling plays that we see top players make. Whether you’re a talented scorer or playmaker, you need to have some craziness, some cockiness, to take yourself to new heights.
If you could give one attribute from a non-star nba player to one prospect, what would you choose?
I’d give Moses Moody JR Smith’s shot selection
— The Halfcourt Press (@THalfCourtPress) June 26, 2021
Getting Moody to just let fly with no hesitation will be key to him reaching his ceiling as a scorer and off-ball threat. As great a shooter as he was this year, there were plenty of times when he had open looks and passed them up because it might not have been the “right” play. With his easy one-motion form, he should be a threat to shoot from anywhere, at any time.
Outside of the top two players in this year’s draft, every prospect has weaknesses. The interesting thing is how we allow ourselves to talk about their paths forward and how those weaknesses impact how we talk about ceilings. It’s generally considered a given that a raw mega-athlete has a high ceiling, especially if they came to the game late. We’re seeing that right now with Keon Johnson and James Bouknight.
But the question is, can that go the other way? Moody is young and has been a winning player in whatever role he’s been asked to play. If he can think the game at a high level at age 18 as a lead scorer on a solid college team, what’s he going to look like after five years in the NBA, surrounded by good players?
For 3-and-D wings, how they process the game is crucial to how effective they can be. This comes in many ways: how they free themselves up for shots playing off-ball. How they leverage the gravity they command as a shooter to get their players in advantage situations, whether passing out of a trap to a short roller with a numbers advantage or screening their screeners to create confusion in the defense about who stays with the shooter. How they switch or don’t switch on any given defensive assignment, and how they use their help defense to force mental mistakes.
All of these go into the ceiling of a player like Moody. Yes, it would be nice if his handle were to tighten up. It would be very nice if he could get his feet to move as quickly as his mind does. But those things, which should see some incremental growth, incidentally, as he spends more offseasons with professional trainers, only tell part of the story of his room for improvement.
Even if Moses Moody isn’t destined to be a superstar, he could still be a star in his role. And given how crucial a role it is for winning teams, that is still one hell of a ceiling.