Timberwolves

Wendell Moore Has the Versatility to Slot Perfectly In the Wolves Rotation

Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Connelly and the Minnesota Timberwolves were active on draft night, taking Walker Kessler at 22 and then grabbing Wendell Moore Jr. with the 26th pick. Moore didn’t follow the typical Duke path to becoming a first-rounder. Despite being ranked 29th in his 2019 high school class via 247sports, Wendell spent three years in Durham.

It was well worth his time and energy, though. He finally reached his goal of making the league. While Moore isn’t a flashy pick, moving back into his draft range to select him was a great decision by Minnesota’s front office.

Moore’s stats and play improved over time, but so did the team around him. Moore overcame adversity early in his career after the NCAA canceled March Madness because of the pandemic his freshman year. Then Duke missed the tournament for the first time since 1995 during his sophomore year. Fortunately, Duke had a complete team his junior year and made it to the Final Four.

While Moore’s stats aren’t outstanding outside of his phenomenal 50.0/41.3/80.5 splits, he did whatever Duke asked him to do in order to succeed.

Duke had one of the more complete teams in college basketball this past season, ranking 9th in the preseason poll. Freshman Paolo Banchero, who the Orlando Magic took 1st overall, joined Wendell. He was also surrounded by sophomore Mark Williams (15th overall), freshman AJ Griffin (16th overall), and freshman Trevor Keels (42nd overall). Wendell was the veteran of the rotation. He lived up to his expectations, showing up and doing what he needed to to get the win.

This year, Wendell’s strengths were his on-ball defending, being a secondary ball-handler, and being effective off-ball, shooting 41.3% from three as a junior.

Moore’s wingspan was measured at 7’0.5” at the combine, contributing significantly to his defense. Moore used his wingspan to his advantage. He was active with his hands when he was the point-of-attack defender, a situation coach Mike Krzyzewski often put him in.

However, as a 6’5.5” wing, Wendell was stuck in between having to guard players of various sizes. He was able to be a switchable defender, either guarding the ball-handler or switching onto a slightly taller player and using his length to affect their shots. Wendell should become an excellent secondary defender for the Wolves and plug some defensive IQ into the roster.

Moore split time with Jeremy Roach as the secondary ball-handler and occasionally the primary option, which was vital to Duke’s success last year. Paolo also got a lot of touches, which took away from Moore and Roach. It is easy to overlook Moore’s 5.2 assists per game as a junior, but he was a willing passer and had many open options in an NBA-style offense. Wendell had a lot to work with at Duke. He played with an athletic big, a proven 3-level scoring wing, and a sniper in the corner.

With so much talent around him, this is a great situation. Despite being fortunate, it is not something to hold against him because he helped those stars to be as good as they were. When Chris Finch deploys him with Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, he can do similar things that he did at Duke. He has been around a winning environment.

Lastly, Moore’s ability to be a part of the offense even when he is not touching the ball is a vital trait. Moore is already a viable shooter. He vastly improved over his time at Duke and showed that, at minimum, he can be a threat from the corner in the NBA.

He is an intelligent player and often made cuts from the wing and corner to get open for a layup or kick-out. Moore had some moments where he was a streaky shooter, but he has proven he has the ability, so it should not be much of a concern. Moore also can take a player off the dribble if the matchup gives him an advantage, showing off a solid mid-range pull-up.

Moore still needs to improve on his ability to finish around the basket, be more consistent as a shooter, and continue to be more consistent as an overall player. That will mean building off his strong junior year and translating that to the NBA. Luckily for the Wolves, he will only be 21 when the season starts after playing three seasons in college, giving him an excellent combination of age and experience.

Wendell should project as a wing in the Wolves’ rotation, with the potential to play a lot this upcoming season in a role that could be very similar to Taurean Prince’s from last year. The Wolves could have Moore on a more affordable long-term deal while still being able to use their mid-level exception in free agency.

Moore should be a capable corner shooter, solid defender, and a player with playmaking capabilities. He could be a future role player for Minnesota who can impact the game while staying within himself as a player.

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