Our story begins in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the Western
Conference Finals, where a 104-76 score prompted both the Golden
State and Dallas coaches to empty their benches for the home
stretch of the blowout series opener.
In response, Reggie Miller on the call proclaimed: “I have a
sneaky feeling. I think these minutes are going to be important for
[Nemanja] Bjelica and Kuminga because, at some point, those two
guys are going to have to play significant minutes in this
Unbeknownst to him, he made a glaring omission in his statement;
the player who really needed these repetitions was Moody. And
during that seemingly meaningless stretch, Moody flashed two
features that would prove useful to Golden State later in the
series — his play-finishing and defensive versatility.
Nowadays, NBA offenses are so prolific that even the most
venerable defenses can’t eliminate every piece on the board. This
leads to teams having to strategically concede certain shots in order
to hone-in on the player(s) they deem the most dangerous (see the
Milwaukee Bucks' defense vs. the Boston Celtics in Round 2).
When you’re going up against the Warriors, the Splash Trio
receives the highest priority, and these standards lead to open
looks for the group’s least esoteric marksman.
As of this moment, Moody falls under this designation. And to
his credit, he did an excellent job of burning the Mavericks for
their negligence in defending him, draining 50% of his triples
(albeit in a miniature sample size).
Cutting and movement rule the day in Golden State's perpetual
motion offensive system. Moody got the memo, and he did a great job
of knowing when it was appropriate to shag back and maintain his
spacing on the perimeter, and when it was time to fill the lane and
shake the Golden Gate bridge with a seismic eruption at the rim.
As Seth Partnow noted in his recent book, "The Midrange
Theory," versatility is the key to playoff success — the ol' Carlos
Boozer and Robert Horry paradigm.
This maxim reigns especially true in defense, where we’ve
already seen multiple playoff runs abbreviated due to a lack of
scheme versatility. (I hope the folks in Utah are doing well on
this fine Friday afternoon.)
Moody was far from the anchor out there, but the Warriors’
defense stayed afloat during his minutes, partially because of his
ability to wear multiple hats on that end of the floor.
We’ll start with his off-ball work and this snag-tastic
Along with that reception, Moody deflected two additional passes
in that very same quarter, prompting Warriors writer Marcus
Thompson to cite Moody’s contributions as an integral part of the team’s Game 4
Despite only authoring 2 steals the entire series, spurts like
the one he demonstrated in Game 4 leave room for potential growth
into a future defensive playmaker.
Moody also did surprisingly well navigating the 2.9 spot as a low-man. He was
well attuned to his positioning, consistently swaying in and out of
the paint to avoid garnering a three-second call, while also timing
his re-entries in a manner that enabled him to wall off forays at
the rim when the moment presented itself.
Lastly, Moody even showed some chops as a man defender. On
this play, he manages to stay attached to Jalen
Brunson amid Jordan Poole’s hedge endeavor, and then mirrors his
movements before hindering his attempt at the rim.
Moody’s point-of-attack prowess is more apparent when you
understand the amount of leeway he was granted within the Warriors’
scheme. In my
recent article on this series, I looked into how Golden State
has specific principles for Luka Doncic ball screens. Well, Moody
was one of the few players given the green light to switch onto him
He was also empowered by Steve Kerr to captain the ship of the
Warriors' revered Box-and-1 alignment a few times during the third
quarter of Game 3. And Moody even got the chance to moonlight as
the team’s defensive coordinator, calling for a zone formation on defense at one point
in Game 4. (For the Warriors, you can tell it's a zone when the
signal-caller executes a raised double fist).
To conclude our tale, let’s take a gander at Moody’s best
two-way sequence of the series, where he blocks Doncic and then
proceeds to commandeer free-throw attempts at the other end of the
floor. A perfect encapsulation of his imprint on this series.
In a class as talent-laden and promising as the 2021 draft pool,
who would have guessed that the player picked last in the lottery
would be the last rookie standing.