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E’Twaun Moore has been a pleasant surprise for the Magic all season. A waiver-wire pickup after a rocky rookie campaign in Boston, Moore has solidified himself as the team’s back-up point guard and is posting a very respectable 12.5 Player Efficiency Rating in 23.8 minutes per game. He’s nothing spectacular, but for a player on a two-year minimum deal on a team lacking in point guard depth, he’s been a revelation.
However, just because Moore beat out Ish Smith for the back-up point guard job doesn’t mean this is where he’s best suited to be. Moore has outperformed expectations, but watching him run an offense has been a trying experience. He struggles to balance looking for his own shot with setting up his teammates and he’s not particularly good at the latter when he tries. The numbers show a similar story. “E’Twaun Moore: back-up point guard” is a much worse basketball player than “E’Twaun Moore: scorer off the bench.”
Moore’s premier value as an NBA player is in his three-point shooting. He’s knocking down 39.1 percent of his threes on the season, building on the 37.8 percent he displayed in limited chances as a rookie with the Celtics. The vast majority of these three-pointers come when Moore is spotting up. Moore has taken 50 spot-up threes (out of 87 three-point attempts) and has made 23 of them (good for 46 percent), averaging 1.38 points per possession on those plays, per Synergy.
Moore has shot 47 percent on 34 spot-up two pointers as well, but those are naturally much less valuable shots.
And when Moore isn’t spotting up? That’s when the shooting equation tilts away from the efficiency scale. Moore has only taken 36 threes on 207 possessions that haven’t been spot-up opportunities and it shows, as he’s averaging only 0.86 points per possession overall on offense.
Even though Moore is actually a good finisher (he converted 68.8 percent of his shots at the rim last year and is at 65.4 percent this season) and even displays a nice floater at times (he’s only taken 22 shots from 3-9 feet, but has made a whopping 17 of them), he almost exclusively takes jumpers. Of his 206 field goal attempts, a meager 26 of them came at the rim.
Moore is even worse getting to the free-throw line, with only 18 attempts on the whole season. Instead, more than a quarter of his field goal attempts from 16-23 feet, a poor decision for any NBA player, and especially Moore, who only makes 32 percent of his long twos.
The solution here would appear to be moving Moore off the ball. It absolves him of the need to run plays. It also absolves fans of the need to watch Moore dribble around and eventually launch a contested jumper. The problem is that the Magic’s roster pretty much necessitates that Moore play back-up point guard.
That being said, in the limited minutes Moore has played next to Jameer Nelson instead of behind him, things look better when taking a look at the numbers from NBA.com. Moore takes 35.7 percent of his shots from midrange without Nelson, but only 19 percent with him. And the percentage of corner threes Moore takes jumps from seven percent without Nelson to 26.2 percent with.
Moore has actually shot poorly with Nelson on the court — his True Shooting percentage is an atrocious 43.6 percent, whereas his season-long mark is 52 percent, and it remains to be seen if this is due to small sample size or an actual issue. But the Magic have been 0.5 points per 100 possessions better when Moore and Nelson share the court versus being 4.9 points per 100 possessions worse with Moore out there alone. I don’t think this is coincidental.
There might not be an immediate solution to the E’Twaun Moore conundrum. The team has one workable point guard in Jameer Nelson opposite two very good shooting guards in J.J. Redick and Arron Afflalo. As a result, Moore gets notched in as the back-up point guard. Things could change, though, once Hedo Turkoglu returns from injury and plays some point forward, but that remains to be seen.
Personally, I would like to see Redick doing work as a de-facto back-up point guard for the time being, but Jacque Vaughn may be hesitant to do so.
Regardless, it certainly seems that Moore could become a good NBA player but not the way he’s being used right now.