UNLV has had 13 games to test out the point guard position. Jovan Mooring, a high-level junior college scorer, has spelled starter Jalen Poyser, a shooting guard forced out of position.
Neither has made a convincing claim to the position as UNLV’s offense (ranked 220th by Ken Pom’s adjusted efficiency) has had serious issues with turnovers and finishing at the rim.
In the last few games of the non-conference season, UNLV has turned to more ball screens to create shots on offense. The two players that have soaked up nearly all of the playing time at point offer extremely different options as ball handlers.
Mooring is instant offense. He can create his own shot better than anyone else on the team, but surprisingly he has passed more than he has looked to score off ball screens. A large part of that is due to opposing defenses showing an aggressive hedge on ball screens to take away Mooring’s lane to the basket. But that usually leaves someone else open.
Mooring has shown he can make the proper pass, especially when the roll man is the player the defense leaves. Kansas was extremely aggressive with its hedge on UNLV ball screens—it was nearly a double a team. But Mooring was able to carve it up a few times, and he produced one of his best plays of the season.
That pass is incredible. Mooring whips it with one hand right to Christian Jones through the tiniest of openings between Jayhawk defenders. Mooring abused the aggressive hedge by dragging it across the court, giving Jones the entire lane to roll into.
Solid spacing along the three-point line gives UNLV a 3-on-2 situation, and Mooring needs to make the right read and deliver a quality pass. He does and Jones finishes.
Mooring has been making great reads over the last few games coming off ball screens, but UNLV’s efficiency has suffered when Mooring passes it. He’s been hit with a bit of bad luck, as his teammates have shot just 3 of 17 on spot ups off ball screens, but some of that blame can be attributed to Mooring’s passes.
“He’s making the right pass, but he’s taking people out of their shots. He’s got to throw it to a target,” Menzies said.
As Mooring scans the floor for an open teammate, his passes tend to force the shooter to move to catch it. And that can be just enough to create a missed shot.
Against Oregon, Mooring denies the ball screen and drives baseline. He draws the help defender and Oregon rotates a man down to the baseline to cut off a pass to the corner.
That leaves Jalen Poyser wide open. Mooring sees this and delivers the pass, but it forces Poyser to move resulting in a missed shot.
UNLV should be shooting better off Mooring passes, plenty of times he has hit an open teammate in the chest just to see the shot clank off the rim. But Mooring’s court vision is something to be excited about.
He has an even distribution in passing as 45.4 percent of his passes go to roll men, while 47.7 percent go to the spot up shooters. That 3 of 17 shooting by spot up shooters is nearly offset by 11 of 17 shooting by roll men. When Mooring is slicing passes through to the big man, UNLV is an efficient offense.
But Jovan Mooring isn’t at UNLV because of his passing. He’s a gunner. He’s going to force shots, but he’s going to create offense when the rest of UNLV can’t get anything going. He’s been more efficient that Poyser when looking to score off ball screens.
On the rare occasion an opponent doesn’t emphasize eliminating Mooring’s penetration, he looks to attack.
Mooring turns the corner and sees nothing but open court as proper spacing left no help defender in position to take away the penetration.
Mooring doesn’t actually beat his man to the basket, but an under-control move around the rim creates the space for the lay in.
Finishing at the rim has been a problem for Mooring. He’s shooting just 37.5 percent in close, second worst for UNLV ahead of Uche Ofoegbu. The problem isn’t when opponents have a vacated lane like above, Mooring’s finishing declines when he tries to force shots through traffic, especially in transition.
If he were to improve his finishing around the rim, Mooring would be an even bigger problem for defenses, but for now he needs to show he can make the read like he did against Oregon, but with a better delivery.
Mooring’s flashiest skill when using ball screens is his crossover. He’s tremendous at making the defender think he’s about to dribble right and use the screen, but he throws a devastating crossover and frees himself up for a three before the big can close out. It is just a matter of Mooring drilling the shot.
He’s shooting 32.5 percent from three this season, a number that needs to increase in Mountain West play. Mooring has been a better shooter this season off the dribble (43.8 percent) than he has in catch-and-shoot situations (38.9 percent). So that quick three off the ball screen is something Mooring should continue to chase.
Onto the starter.
Jalen Poyser’s most eye pleasing move off the pick and roll is his spin move. Poyser likes to get into the lane against a big man and spin to create space for a shot. And he can do it going either direction.
He puts his shoulder into the defender creating contact sending the big man the wrong way before quickly spinning back to the open space on the floor. Whenever Poyser gets a chance to turn the corner off the ball screen and dribble at a big man, he has a go-to move to create an open shot close to the basket.
But Poyser’s spin doesn’t get him all the way to the rim. He still has to finish from six or seven feet away, which illustrates the main issue with Poyser’s offense coming off ball screens. He doesn’t try to get all the way to the rim.
He has penetrated the defense and drawn a second defender, which is exactly what a point guard should do coming off a ball screen. But Poyser can’t see the court as he’s facing the wrong way. The result is a missed shot.
Poyser takes the safer option to pull up a few feet away from the basket and try to float a shot in before any help-side defender can contest his shot. It is the exact opposite of Mooring’s mindset. Mooring is trying to get all the way to the rim and challenge the shot blockers.
Poyser’s methods eliminates shot blocking, but a floater from six feet away is a lower percentage shot than a layup. But that layup has a higher chance of getting swatted or resulting in a shooting foul. Neither player has been finishing at the rim at a high level: Poyser at 50 percent, Mooring at 37.5 percent, per Hoop Math.
Like his shot selection, Poyser’s passes off pick and rolls are safe. He isn’t looking for the roll man unless that pass is unimpeded, as just 24.2 percent of Poyser’s passes have been to the roll man. Typically it isn’t even a roll to the basket, instead it is a pop to the three-point line – a safe pass.
So Poyser is always looking for spot up shooters around the three-point line. When defenses are forced into choosing between defending a big rolling to the rim and a shooter on the three-point line, Poyser is kicking to the perimeter.
But that safe pass has been fruitful for UNLV. Unlike Mooring’s passes, UNLV is shooting an even 50 percent when Poyser comes off a ball screen and hits a teammate spotted up. Kris Clyburn drilled the three-pointer against Arizona State.
UNLV has done a tremendous job recently of making Tyrell Green (49.1 percent three-point shooter) the spot up shooter defenses have to help off of. Getting Green from behind the arc as a tertiary option on basketball’s most common play is sign of terrific play design by Menzies.
But between Mooring and Posyer it simply breaks down as an aggressive option or a safe option. Mooring will look for his shot and try to take it right at defenders while Poyser is content with looks from little farther out with less defensive pressure. And when the defenses are taking away the guards with hard hedges or double teams, Mooring will try to make the perfect pass, where Poyser will look for the simple pass.
Both options will be necessary for UNLV through Mountain West play. It’ll be Marvin Menzies job to figure out which skill set he needs to close out games.
Mooring’s high risk, high reward style can jumpstart UNLV’s lethargic offense, but Poyser’s methodic reads can help calm an offense that turns the ball over on 20.2 percent of its possessions, 236th worst in the nation.