Wendell Moore may not feel as much a part of the future as Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels, but the development of role players around those players is just as important. Moore also has plenty of time to figure out his place on the Minnesota Timberwolves and in the league. The Wolves selected Moore 26th overall last draft after three seasons at Duke. Moore contributed as a core player on many of Duke’s talented teams, his most impressive season being on the 2021-22 team that reached the Final Four. He would only see NBA action in 29 games this season, mostly as a reserve subbing in for blowouts or occasionally in end-of-quarter situations.
Moore’s slow development should not be a concern, though. He was a first-round selection and is on a cheap four-year rookie contract that gives plenty of time and flexibility for growth. Additionally, Wendell was very young for a junior. He was 20.8 years old on draft day, offering even more of a platform for developmental time.
Last year, Moore showed us he’ll need time to develop. Most of his minutes came with the Iowa Wolves in the G-League, where he saw action in eight games. Iowa was the perfect spot for him to get real reps as they try to find where he fits on the team. Low-risk reps have also allowed the team to attempt to find what his positional fit and archetype will be moving forward in his NBA career.
Being multidimensional was a strength of Moore’s at Duke. He could be the primary ball handler, work as a connector off the ball, or be a floor spacer shooting 35.8% from three on 2.5 attempts a night. Now, he may need to find what his best way is to contribute to winning basketball and where he can fit into a rotation, given he has no dominant strength.
Moore’s lack of a standout skill became relevant when he played in Iowa. It is a tricky situation to figure out how a prior strength of versatility may appear to be a disadvantage at the NBA level. What skills are going to translate best? And how are these reps going to be helpful? Wendell would see a similar role offensively to what he did with Duke, occasionally running as the point guard but also being able to play off the ball.
As expected, Moore was much more aggressive offensively because getting shots up never hurts when you are in the G-League game atmosphere. In his 8 G-League games, Moore averaged 19.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 3.0 turnovers. He had shooting numbers of 6.9 for 16.4 (42.0%) from the field, 1.8 for 5.9 (29.8%) from three, and 2.3 for 2.6 (85.7%) from the free-throw line.
These numbers are difficult to get a meaningful read on because it was an environment in that Wendell is looking to force more shots. However, it can still show us where he needs to improve to become an NBA contributor. Focusing on his spacing of the floor, which is something we often saw even in his time with the Wolves, teams were comfortable with him to taking these shots.
Here are the majority of Wendell’s 17 three-point attempts with the Wolves this season. He made two of them.
Moore has only 29 NBA games and much of which were in blowout minutes. However, competent floor spacing is Wendell’s key to becoming more of a relevant option. He already showed tools at Duke as a cutter off the ball and making smart plays off the catch. Still, teams will need to respect Moore enough from beyond the arc for him to find himself more opportunities.
His defense is the other tool that will allow Moore to come into his own. We got a great sample of this in Moore’s lone start of the season against Memphis. Jaden McDaniels would miss this game due to illness, forcing Wendell to be matched up with Ja Morant as the next man up, and he impressed.
Wendell measured in with a 7’0.5” wingspan at the 2022 NBA Draft Combine, which he can use to his advantage to match up with multiple positions. Optimizing this could be his quickest route to playtime. Many young players often have a chip on their shoulders to show their best in their limited opportunities by showing how they can implement their traits the best. They often do the dirty work and outwork others to be seen.
As someone who was high on the Moore pick, I still hold stock for the ability to bring attention to the smaller details of the game that makes the life of the higher-usage players easier. Look at the Denver Nuggets’ selection of Christian Braun at 21 this past season. Braun has been an impactful role player for them in the playoff run by doing the little things such as cutting at the right time while offering impact defense. While the draft is polarized for the high ceilings of players, it can often be just as impactful to take key contributing role players that will bring cohesion to a team around the core pieces.
Moore likely will grow into a role player to fit in. His role next season is in limbo because we do not know the future of the players ahead of him in Nickeil Alexander-Walker (restricted free agent) and Jaylen Nowell (unrestricted free agent). There’s also Summer League and preseason to be played. But we should see Wendell as a potential contributor off the bench, it’s just a matter of when that happens. He has a chance to run with this because of the openings in the rotation and the thin existing core at the guard/wing position. Don’t count out Wendell. He could easily become an inexpensive role player in the near future.