Former Oregon Ducks basketball player Mike Moser continued his unconventional pursuit of becoming an NBA player on Saturday when he scored 17 points to go along with three assists, three rebounds and three steals for the Boston Celtics summer league team. His 17 points were second only to teammate Kelly Olynyk and he outplayed two lottery picks: Boston Celtics point guard Marcus Smart and Miami Heat point guard Shabazz Napier.
Moser’s performance came after he went undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, although he was able to agree to terms to play with the Celtics summer league team less than 24 hours after the draft concluded. Boston becomes the latest stopping-off place and is a continuation of a basketball career that has seen Moser, a former highly-touted recruit coming out of Portland’s Grant High School, move around quite a bit.
Following an unsuccessful freshman year at UCLA, Moser transferred to UNLV and played two seasons in Las Vegas after being forced to sit out a year because of an NCAA transfer rule. With one year of collegiate eligibility remaining, Moser returned to his native state to play his final year for Dana Altman’s Oregon Ducks. The rest is history. The Ducks earned their second consecutive NCAA tournament bid while Moser led the team in rebounding and finished second in scoring, blocked shots and steals.
Despite the great season Moser put together, though, it wasn’t good enough in the minds of NBA teams to use one of their picks on him. Moser was never projected as anything more than a second round pick in this draft, so he likely wouldn’t have received a guaranteed roster spot had he been drafted. But the question still remains: Will Moser be able to make an NBA roster this year?
It’s far too early to make any definitive conclusions through one summer league game. Adding to that point, gauging summer league performances is often considered an uncertainty in the sense that the overall level of competition is inferior to that of a typical NBA game. But Moser possesses a versatile quality that could make several teams intrigued enough to sign him: the ability to play the “stretch four.”
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the term, the stretch four in basketball differs from a traditional power forward, or “four,” mainly on the offensive end. Stretch fours have power forward size, but they also typically have skills that traditionally smaller players more often possess including shooting, ball-handling and passing. Moser fits this mold perfectly.
Moser and fellow Portland prep star Terrence Jones often drew comparisons to each other throughout their high school careers; both were around 6 feet, 8 inches tall, both led their teams to state championships and most importantly, both had the skills to play the stretch four.
I attended Grant High and was a freshman when Moser was a senior and will always remember when Moser and Jones, who was a junior at Jefferson at the the time, squared off on Grant’s home court in the biggest Portland prep basketball game of the 2008-09 regular season.
Grant held the lead for much of that late-January evening, yet Jones almost singlehandedly kept Jefferson in contention as he scored 36 points. But it was Moser that made the big plays in the clutch, including a three-pointer to give Grant the lead for good, followed with a charge he took against Jones, to clinch the 70-67 win. Jones would go on to draw more interest from colleges than Moser, but that night Moser showed that he could play to Jones’ level.
Jones is now a starter for the Houston Rockets, playing the stretch four in a lineup that includes NBA stars Dwight Howard and James Harden, while Moser is fighting for a roster spot.
As time has passed, there is little doubt that Moser is less polished than NBA stretch four players such as Jones. Moser is far from a shoe-in for an NBA roster spot, but if he continues to showcase his versatile game that Ducks fans know he’s capable of and improve on it this summer, there’s no reason to believe Moser can’t make it in the NBA this season.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline