Moser's journey continues with Celtics
July, 6, 2014
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty ImagesORLANDO, Fla. -- Mike Moser knows full well that things don't always go as planned.
It was less than two years ago that Moser was drawing some buzz as a potential first-round draft pick. He'd averaged a double-double (14 points, 10.5 rebounds) his sophomore year at UNLV and the arrival of soon-to-be No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett had a lot of eyes on the Rebels' frontcourt.
Moser, hindered by injuries, struggled for much of that 2012-13 season and slipped off the radar of many NBA teams. He ultimately elected to return home and finish out his college career at the University of Oregon, his third team in five years.
The 23-year-old Moser didn't hear his name called in last month's draft, but almost immediately after the pick-a-palooza ended, he got a call from another Oregon native -- Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge -- offering him the chance to compete for an NBA job with Boston's summer league squad in Orlando.
Moser has made a quality first impression, separating himself from some of his roster competition during four days of practice leading up to Saturday's summer league opener, then logging a bench-high 24 minutes, 33 seconds of floor time while putting up 17 points (on 6-of-11 shooting) with 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and a block in Boston's 85-77 triumph over the Miami Heat.
"Mike obviously played really well," said Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga, tasked with running the summer squad. "Even in practice, he’s somebody that fills up the stat sheet. He gets rebounds, he makes baskets, he gets loose balls, he’s in the right place defensively a lot. I was real happy for him [Saturday] there in his first game that he played so well."
Head coach Brad Stevens echoed those sentiments.
"What stands out to me about Mike, just from a guy that followed it really far away, was his rebounding," Stevens said. "And I probably didn’t realize he was as good of a shooter as he is, and he’s really shown that in the first four days, and that was important [Saturday] because otherwise, we weren’t making a lot of shots."
Moser attacked the defensive glass his sophomore season, ranking eighth in the nation among qualifiers for defensive rebound percentage, according to Basketball Reference. The trouble at the NBA level is that Moser is 6-foot-8 and doesn't have quite the build as, say, Kenneth Faried to instantly be a rebounding force against NBA bigs. That leaves him in the land of tweeners and, even with a nose for the ball, he must also prove he can be a consistent perimeter shooter, as well as a capable defender, to convince NBA teams he can be a productive wing.
Moser shot 37.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc last season at Oregon while averaging 13.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He believes he can play either forward position at this level.
"Honestly, I think I can play both," Moser said. "I know a lot of teams have expressed to me that they definitely think I can as well. I think as time goes on, I'll probably naturally develop more as a 3 -- with my range, that helps. I think I rebound the ball well as a 4, though."
Moser doesn't regret his college journey ("My college process was fun; I made a lot of fun stops," he said), but acknowledged that summer league might be his best chance to show talent evaluators his NBA potential.
Moser didn't have to look far to realize the opportunity that summer league affords him. He's well aware that teammate Phil Pressey, undrafted out of Missouri last year, parlayed a strong summer showing into a long-term contract with a fully guaranteed first season. Pressey spent time before the Celtics' offday session on Sunday helping get Moser in the right spots in the team's offensive and defensive sets.
Chris Forsberg/ESPN BostonPhil Pressey dispenses advice to undrafted rookie Mike Moser.
"I've been picking Phil’s brain since the day I met him -- about everything, including how to carry yourself and what to do, what not to do," Moser said. "I’d love to be in the same situation as he was last year."
Pressey isn't letting Moser get complacent with a strong debut.
"He shot the ball well, but that’s one day," Pressey said. "I want him to continue to get better and string a couple days together. I hope he does the same thing he did the other day."
But Pressey's advice often steers toward the other side of the ball, knowing that defense may be the key to whether teams seriously consider Moser.
"I talk to some of the guys, I just tell them to go out there and try to prove themselves on the defensive end," Pressey said. "A lot of coaches and teams know that they have guys that can score the ball, but they want somebody that can change the game on the defensive end. I told Mike Moser that. Just worry about the defensive end and the rest will take care of itself."
Moser knows the reality: He's a roster long shot. He's played against (and shares an agent with) fellow roster hopeful Colton Iverson, who spent a year in Turkey last season in hopes of honing his skills. Moser's journey could very well continue overseas, but he's savoring his time with Boston.
"It’s been great, especially playing with a lot of these veteran guys -- Phil, [Chris Johnson], Kelly Olynyk -- even Colton Iverson’s kind of been around [the team]. They are all really kind of mentoring me and making it easy. With that kind of talent, it’s easy to put these guys together and just go play."