The Warriors were hit with a massive loss on the first day of NBA free agency, as Gary Payton II reportedly agreed to a three-year, $28 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers that can be worth up to $30 million.
Instead of watching Payton guard Portland stars like Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons up and down the court, now the Warriors will have to face the feisty guard three times a season. There's no fully replacing Payton's unique skill set. It will be a group effort.
And it starts with Moses Moody.
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When the Warriors selected Moody with the No. 14 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the freshman out of Arkansas was seen as the more pro-ready prospect between him and Jonathan Kuminga, the No. 7 pick by Golden State. But Kuminga continued to open eyes and his pure athleticism was too much to keep off the floor at times. Steve Kerr also showed how much he already trusts Moody at a crucial point when the rookie was still only 19 years old.
Moody, now 20, essentially was given Payton's minutes in the Western Conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks with the veteran on the shelf to a fractured left elbow. He averaged 12.8 minutes per game in the conference finals, averaged 4.6 points and made half of his 3-point attempts. Where he really stood out was the other side of the ball.
Kerr didn't wait to bring Moody off the bench early while being surrounded by shooters. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard/small forward has a 7-foot-1 wingspan and already plays very technically sound, and isn't afraid to get on the ground for a loose ball. Not everything is seen in the box score, but watching the way he would put a hand in the face of Mavs star Luka Doncic shows how much the little things already matter to him.
His impact was seen more than ever when the Warriors almost pulled off a wild 29-point comeback against the Mavs in Game 4 with the backups and role plays taking over. Moody scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter and made both of his 3-pointers. He didn't hesitate with the ball in his hands and looked like a seasoned veteran ready for the big stage. The rookie also had two steals and four deflections.
Golden State Warriors
The expectation already was that Moody would take a leap and see his role expand in Year 2. Now with Payton reportedly headed to Portland, his timeline has moved up a bit and his readiness just became that much more important.
"Resilience, discipline," Moody said Wednesday to reporters when asked what he learned as a rookie. "It was a lot of different things, a lot of different points in this year that called for me to be a different person or for me to think a different way, have a different mindset and I was kind of impressed with my ability to do so, recognize who I need to be during that time and shift my mindset to be OK with it and being on my toes on and off the court and being able to maneuver it.
"At the end of the day, I was 19 years old. This is all new to me. I've never been in a work environment. It's a business. This is my first time having co-workers. I'm learning how to become an NBA player. I'm learning how to be an adult, how to have a job, how to be a celebrity. All of that stuff is new, so I was impressed with the way I was able to maneuver."
So were the Warriors.
And Moody isn't taking any time off with the NBA Finals and the Warriors' championship parade in the rearview mirror.
He already is back on the court practicing with the Warriors' summer league team and is expected to play at least one of the Warriors' games this weekend in the California Classic at Chase Center. It's still to be determined if he also will play in games in Las Vegas. What is Moody's main focus right now?
The entirety of basketball. Literally.
"I'm working on everything," Moody said. "Everything needs work. I'm working on my jumpshot -- spot-up shooting, shooting off the catch, shooting off the dribble. Defense -- on-ball defense, off-ball defense. Transition -- pushing the ball, playing with pace, making quick decisions. Finishing in transition, finishing around the rim.
"I could sit here and name everything I want to work on, but I'd explain the whole game of basketball if I did."
Moody was praised all season long for his poise, maturity, work ethic and being able to stay ready as a rookie. Now all those aspects are about to be put to the test. The work has just begun.
He sure seems more than ready for his next challenge, too.