Duke basketball: Buying or selling the Wendell Moore hype?

Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke basketball junior Wendell Moore now appears ready for a breakout year.

Around this time a year ago, I wrote a similar article speculating on how Wendell Moore would have a breakout season. While he did improve from his freshman to sophomore year, it ended up being fellow Duke basketball sophomore Matthew Hurt who had a breakout year.

Now, as an upperclassman and with high praise from his coach, all signs point to Moore being ready for a breakout junior year.

Moore has been an integral piece of the rotation his first two seasons in Durham, but he has been more of a role player. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound forward hasn’t really shown that he can be a go-to guy or one of the team’s best players. However, he has been able to provide defensive versatility, length and athleticism, and dependable ball-handling.

Heading into his this season, Moore is eyeing more of a leadership role since he is one of the most experienced Blue Devils on the roster.

There was a significant jump for Moore from his freshman to sophomore season. Not only did he improve his averages in nearly every meaningful statistical category, such as points, assists, rebounds, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage, but he also showed off an expanded offensive game. He was much more aggressive looking for his shot.

As a freshman, Moore did not hunt his own shot very frequently. Instead, he earned his minutes by being a strong defensive player who could guard multiple spots, helping out on the glass, and running in transition.

As a sophomore, Moore showed that he could be a playmaker and create his own shot. By the time Duke got to the ACC Tournament, he was doing the majority of the ballhandling, which included bringing the ball up and initiating the offense.

Being one of the primary ballhandlers is once again something Moore will be relied upon to do this season. Last year, he finished just below Jeremy Roach as the team’s leader in assists at 2.8 per game.

What Wendell Moore may have added for his third Duke basketball campaign

Throughout preseason scrimmage film released by the program, Wendell Moore has been one of the Blue Devils’ primary playmakers. He can be seen operating in pick-and-roll situations and attacking early in transition. Given his passing ability combined with his athleticism and size, he will likely be featured in a lot of ball screens this year.

When 42nd-year Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked about Moore recently, he offered high praise, saying that the junior had a “sensational” offseason.

The one area where Moore will need to prove himself the most this season is as a shooter. The 20-year-old North Carolina native has struggled to knock down shots in his first two seasons. As a freshman, he made just four 3-pointers in 19 attempts. As a sophomore, he showed some improvement beyond the arc, making 22 attempts, but he shot just 30.1 percent from three.

Moore did show more confidence in his shot as a sophomore and the ability to create space for his shot. The only problem was he didn’t make very many of those shots that he was able to create for himself. I thought at times he settled for outside shots rather than trying to attack the basket, which is one of his biggest strengths offensively.

Last season, Moore attempted 21 fewer free throws than he did as a freshman. While he does need to look for his shot, he cannot lose his aggressiveness going to the rim and getting to the foul line.

The ability to consistently hit threes will really allow Moore’s game to get to the next level. If he does, I believe we will start to hear his name thrown around when it comes to NBA Draft talk.

It is still unclear how good of a shooting team this year’s Blue Devil squad will be. But if Moore can find that consistency, it will really help Duke’s overall ability to be a good outside shooting team.

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Having a talented upperclassman with multiple years of experience in the program is something the Blue Devils do not have very often. It’s easy to forget that Wendell Moore was a McDonald’s All-American in high school. He has been more of a role player so far in Durham, but given what he’s shown so far and the improvements made over the summer, this is going to be the breakout year for Moore.