Today we continue our discussion about the Jackets group of returning players. Who will fill the open minutes? Who will take on a bigger role?
Countdown to tipoff: 29 days
The point guard battle is going to be one of the biggest camp competitions to watch this fall. The departure of Josh Heath and Corey Heyward has opened up nearly 50 minutes of playing time at the guard position. One of the main candidates for a bump in minutes is sophomore Justin Moore. The San Diego native earned nearly 19 minutes of playing time last year, averaging 4.4 ppg and 2.4 apg. As the only true returning point guard on the roster, Moore is surely in for a minutes boost, but will have to hold off freshman Jose Alvarado, who comes in as a highly touted prospect looking to get big minutes early. Today, I’m going to break down what Moore does well and what he needs to work on in order to take his game to the next level.
Vision and Passing
While 2.4 assists per game may initially seem modest, Moore actually ranked 2nd on the team and 206th nationally in assist rate. Moore has strong court vision and the confidence to make the tough pass. In the clip below, Moore is able to draw two defenders before finding a wide open Sylvester Ogbonda under the basket. Last season, he consistently exhibited a strong sense for the game and an ability to find the open man. This season, he will need to do it even more after the departure of assists leader Josh Heath.
In addition to his court vision, Moore was put at point guard in large part due to his strong ball handling. He has a certain confidence with the ball in his hands and consistently showed the ability to beat his defenders off the dribble, scoring the majority of his points at the basket. As a 6’4” guard with speed, defenders had trouble recovering once Moore gained a step on them. For years under Brian Gregory, Tech fans became numb to offenses where no one could penetrate the basket and a player like Moore is a breath of fresh air in that regard. Additionally, Moore helps the Jackets push the ball up the court and run an up tempo style that allows them to get easy baskets, important for a team that ranked 259th in the country in offensive efficiency.
Shooting is the area where Moore most drastically needed to improve. To his credit, he understood last season that shooting was not his strength and attempted just ten three-pointers on the year, making only three of them. From the charity stripe, Moore made just 53% of his attempts. Due to how often he attacked the basket, Moore got to the free throw line fairly often (37% FT rate), making his percentage even more damaging to the team. During the offseason, Moore alluded to his struggles being related to confidence and an adjustment period to the college game. The numbers support that argument, as he made 9 of his final 11 free throws including a 5-6 performance against Belmont in the NIT. From behind the arc, an improved jump shot would force defenders to guard Moore more tightly, freeing the rest of his game up and opening up space for the rest of the offense as well. As an area of focus for Moore this offseason, Tech fans should expect an improved jumper next season, but the extent of improvement will largely dictate the jump in minutes he receives.
This one is more of a gripe about the entire Tech team than just Moore. The Jackets ranked 232nd in the country in turnover percentage last season and Moore’s 1.5 turnovers per game were definitely a contributor to that number. His 25.7% turnover rate was third on the team (behind Josh Heath and Abdoulaye Gueye) and while a 1.6 assist/turnover ratio is respectable, it’s nearly a third of the national leaders. Plays like the one below were common last year for the whole team, not just Moore. For the Jackets to take a step forward next season, Tech will have to cut down on its giveaways and that all starts with the point guards.
What do you think? Will Moore see a significant uptick in minutes this year? What will you be watching for early in the season?