Let’s say this first: Herb Jones is no scrub.
The best overall player on the first Alabama squad to win an SEC title in two decades is one of only two players in the nation who’s a semifinalist for the awards for both the nation’s best player and the nation’s best defensive player.
Good for Herb.
The senior forward has improved year by year and overcame a mid-season back injury to guarantee himself a spot on the All-SEC first team. And a likely SEC Defensive Player of the Year honor, to boot.
But that’s where the hardware for Herb Jones heading into this postseason should stop.
Because while Jones may be the best defender in the SEC, his offense hasn’t improved enough to warrant getting the SEC Player of the Year award.
Nor should that award go to LSU’s Cam Thomas, who is the conference’s best scorer but isn’t versatile enough to deserve the honor, or to Florida’s Tre Mann, who had a great season in the absence of star teammate Keyontae Johnson but wasn’t impressive enough down the stretch.
Instead, only one player has done everything well enough to truly deserve the 2021 SEC Player of the Year: Moses Moody.
The 6’6” star freshman has put on a show since January, leading the Arkansas basketball team to 11 straight SEC wins, including a knockout of Alabama in Fayetteville.
NOT IN MO’S HOUSE pic.twitter.com/A2jj4u1vU5
— HAWWWWWWWWWWWGS 🐗 (@RazorbackMBB) March 6, 2021
He’s been especially torrid in the last couple games. At the end of Arkansas-Texas A&M game, SEC Network analyst Jon Sundvold couldn’t praise Moody enough after he hit the three-pointer that put Arkansas up for good – 79-78 – with about 50 seconds left in the game.
“I think he just does it for 94 feet.”
Fellow commentator Dave Neal chimed in, saying Moody’s consistency on both ends makes him worthy of the SEC Player of the Year award. “I know there’s going to be arguments for Herb Jones because he’s ‘great’ on both ends.”
“He’s not great on the offensive end, I’m just going to say it. He’s OK on the offensive end.”
The numbers back Neal up.
In SEC play, Jones has averaged only 10.1 points per game on 44.4% from the field, 43.3% from the three point line and 70.5% from the free throw line.
He has also produced per-game averages of 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks a game. His Player Efficiency Rating is 19.8 while his Win Shares, an estimate of the number of wins contributed to a player due to his offense and defense, is 2.0.
In conference, meanwhile, Moody has averaged 17.8 points per game on 40.4% from the field, 37.6% from the three point line and 85% from the free throw line. He’s also thrown in nearly 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.1 steals and .6 blocks per game.
Both his Player Efficiency Rating (20.9) and Win Shares (2.6) are higher than Jones’.
Take note of that efficiency. Few can match Moses Moody in this department. Even when Moody struggles from the outside, he has consistently proven he can generate points by racking up foul shots. That’s part of the reason he’s widely projected as lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Even as a freshman, Moody has proven he’s light years ahead of Jones in terms of offensive IQ and savvy.
Moody has an imperturbable quality that is very rare among 18 year olds.
“A lot of players, just because the game is fast, they react fast. They think fast,” he said on Bo Mattingly’s Hogpod podcast. “But if you could look into my head while I play, everything is slowed down to where, if I see you closing out, I’m 6’6 with a 7’1 wingspan, you’re not blocking my shot, probably. So what’s the point of rushing to get it off just so I can get it off?”
Yes, Herb Jones is ahead of Moody as a defender. However, the gap between Jones and Moody is more narrow on the defensive end than on the offensive end, even when accounting for Jones’ playmaking.
Here’s where he ranks, according to Pig Trail Nation’s Kevin McPherson:
- 17.5 points per game ranks 3rd in the SEC
- 5.7 rebounds ranks 16th (3rd among guards)
- 5th in the SEC in field goals made (139)
- 10th in field goal percentage (44.1%)
- 7th in three-point field goals made (51)
- 10th in three-point field goal percentage (38.6%)
- 2nd in both free throws made (125) and free throws attempted (151)
- 6th in free-throw percentage (82.8%)
Moody has also shown he has a great instinct for bodying up against bigger opponents, defensive rebounding and coming up with huge blocks when they are most needed.
But since he’s only the third best defender on an overall excellent defensive team (behind Jalen Tate and Justin Smith), his abilities here are underrated.
“He may not be on the all-defensive team, I get that,” Dave Neal said. “But he’s a terrific defender.”
In the end, Jones is the favorite for SEC Player of the Year because his Alabama basketball team was the SEC’s hottest in the early to mid part of this season. As its best two-way player, he benefits from all the media attention showered on Nate Oats’ squad over the course of two to three months.
Arkansas, meanwhile, has overtaken Alabama as the league’s best team in the last month. Yet this late push means that its best player, Moody, hasn’t benefited from the same level of total exposure that Alabama has. Most of Arkansas basketball’s national love has only come lately.
On top of that, some media members like Jimmy Dykes think it’s enough to give Moody the SEC Freshman of the Year award, put him on the All-SEC team and just leave it at that.
In the end, all the hype that Alabama basketball has been able to generate will probably be too much to overcome.
Don’t think Moses Moody will sweat it, however, if he’s snubbed for the award he deserves.
When it comes to how he wants to be remembered, he told Mattingly: “I don’t want it necessarily to be, ‘Moses was a great player.’ I want it to be, ‘Moses and his team won. They helped build and carry on the legacy of the Razorbacks.’”
Hear Moody’s entire interview, including his plans and preparations for the NBA, here:
Nolan Richardson on Moses Moody
“He’s probably the best freshman in the country,” the legendary Arkansas basketball coach told sports radio host Josh Bertaccini.
“And the way he’s played the game, the way he’s shot the ball, the way he’s handled his position and other positions. I called him a ‘fixer.'”
“So, on the team, there’s guys that fix things and there’s guys that break them down. He’s a fixer, and whatever breaks, he fixed. If it’s a guy to position defensively, he’s in a position to maybe help him get it fixed. If he’s out of position on the offensive end and something happened and you need something to happen, there he is.”
“To me, he’s the best fixer I’ve seen the Razorbacks have in many, many years.”
Hear Nolan Richardson’s thoughts on the Arkansas basketball program under Eric Musselman at 36:17 below:
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