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Will Lack of the “Clutch Gene” in a Small Sample Size End Up Costing Moses Moody Millions of Dollars?

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Arkansas at Baylor Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the big picture, if things go as planned, Moses Moody’s last two games of the 2021 NCAA Tournament will go down as a mere smudge on the much larger, beautifully-woven tapestry that will be his overall basketball career.

In his only season at Arkansas, Moody won SEC Freshman of the Year and averaged 16.8 points a game, finishing ahead of Joe Johnson and Todd Day in the record books for most points averaged by a Razorback freshman. He also finished behind only Sidney Moncrief in rebounds per game by an Arkansas freshman guard.

Looking ahead, Moody projects to spend at least a dozen years in the NBA as the kind of prototypical “3-and-D” wing player who could do for future NBA champions what Sean Elliott did for the San Antonio Spurs and James Posey did for the Boston Celtics.

Even though Moody probably will never be an “alpha scorer” type of player, he has most of the tangible and intangible qualities NBA executives want to fill complementary roles around the likes of Luka Doncic, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokoumpo.

So, in the long-term narrative of such a promising career, it doesn’t seem like a couple of games should mean so much.

As Razorback fans know well, this Little Rock native, after all, is a lot more than the combined 6 of 30 he shot against Oral Roberts in the Sweet 16 and against Baylor in the Elite Eight. And he’s a much better shooter than the overall 17.6% he shot in the NCAA Tournament would indicate.

The problem is, some NBA personnel put more stock in what they see as the “clutch gene” than others.

And that could end up costing Moses Moody millions of dollars when the 2021 NBA Draft rolls around.

The “clutch gene,” in basketball offense terms, is the ability to hit the biggest shots in the biggest games.

It’s what Kemba Walker evinced so well in UConn’s title run in 2011, and what freshman Jalen Suggs showed in spades for Gonzaga through this most recent March Madness.

When it comes to the upcoming NBA Draft, Suggs was already projected to go in the Top 5 in most mock drafts. His NCAA Tournament performance, highlighted by the game-winner he hit against UCLA, certainly didn’t hurt.

In a recent ESPN mock draft, Suggs is forecast to go at No. 3 to the Detroit Pistons, which is among the least likely teams to win the 2021 NBA title according to sports betting sites.

Moody, meanwhile, was projected to go in the top 10 through much of the season but has dropped to No. 21 (Houston) in ESPN’s mock draft.

The difference between the two spots is more than $3 million.

If Moody were drafted as the No. 10 pick, he would make a guaranteed total of $7.4709 million in two seasons. By dropping to No. 21 in the draft, he would make $4.362 million in two seasons based on the NBA rookie salary scale.

Yes, Moody’s underwhelming March Madness performance may further convince some NBA personnel he’s not ready to contribute right off the bat. But the ability to contribute right away isn’t a precondition for being a high draft pick.

“In terms of what he can do at the NBA level right now, probably not that much,” NBA writer Bryan Kalbrosky said on the Ruscin & Zach Show.

“But I think that even guys potentially ahead of him might even be more raw. I think Jonathan Kuminga [projected No. 5 pick] is probably more raw than Moody in a lot of ways, especially with his shot selection and his three point shot.”

Kalbrosky adds that some players, especially the younger one-and-dones, have trouble contributing right away because their frames aren’t yet developed. He points to Golden State rookie Jame Wiseman as an example, and thinks USC’s Evan Mobley could fall into the same category.

Sure, Moody could have left under better conditions. And he may end up getting drafted a few spots lower because of it.

But once he’s in the league, losing out on a few million dollars up front won’t change Moody’s ability to fulfill his potential as the kind of sharpshooting, defensive wing player who can help bring world championships home.

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For more, see: Jimmy Dykes on Moses Moody’s Biggest Potential Red Flags Ahead of 2021 NBA Draft