Another Important Transfer Pick Up For Oregon: Can Mike Moser Re-Emerge In Eugene?Posted by Chris Johnson on May 9th, 2013
Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
The transfer market didn’t betray the Oregon Ducks last season, so they gave it another shot this week. They went after coveted former UNLV forward Mike Moser, who instantly became one of the hottest transfer pieces on the market this offseason following his release from the Rebels. Moser could play right away thanks to the graduate transfer exemption, and he could have chosen any number of teams — who wouldn’t want to add an athletic and imposing 6’8” power forward to bolster their frontcourt? Washington, Oregon and Gonzaga had emerged as Moser’s most likely landing spots in recent weeks, and on Tuesday, Moser finally settled on his home state school.
The Portland native instantly raises Oregon’s chances of competing in a winnable Pac-12. That is the most conspicuously plain reaction to Moser’s news, and it’s probably right. Moser makes Oregon better. Elucidating the scope of that description – how much better? – requires a quick revisiting of Moser’s two-year career to date. In 2011-12, Moser was an absolute force. He played 77.1 percent of the available minutes, posted a top-10 defensive rebounding rate, a top-100 steal percentage, and showed promise on the offensive end. Moser’s athletic skills and instinctual defensive and rebounding work made him an obvious All-America candidate heading into last season. He was big and athletic and skilled, and just beginning to scratch the surface of his immense potential – Moser seemed like one of safest bargains on the table. Not only would he shine individually, Moser would power a talented UNLV group, built on the back of a highly-ranked freshman class that included likely lottery pick Anthony Bennett, to an easy MW title. Moser’s monster season was pre-scripted. He was a virtual lock for stardom.
No part of that simple and convenient projection played out according to plan. Moser was repurposed as a hybrid small forward to help alleviate some of the clutter UNLV dealt in trying to suit up an overstuffed frontcourt. All of Bennett, Moser and Pitt transfer Khem Birch were owed floor time – whether on the merit of sheer talent (Birch) or actual production (Bennett) or previous performance (Moser). The end result pushed Moser out to the perimeter, and his numbers fell in every meaningful category. Maybe the most concerning? Moser’s average percentage of minutes played dropped from 77.1% to 42.5%. Perhaps some of the blame can be ascribed to a gruesome elbow dislocation suffered in December, an ailment that kept Moser out of commission for seven games, but surely the brunt of the statistical and empirical downturn drills down to sheer lineup calculus and bad fit. Moser wasn’t comfortable in UNLV’s, erm, frontcourt. His numbers told the story for him.
Getting Moser to Eugene was the first and most difficult step in resuscitating the career of a potential All-conference level player. The next falls on Altman in leading Moser down a path of rediscovery, to the days of glass-cleaning dominance and comfortable low-block positional fit. The Ducks offer those comforts on the court – a less-crowded frontcourt should allow Moser to move back to his more productive position – and off it, a history of making transfers feel right at home. The pattern is recent, too – Waverly Austin, Tony Woods, Devoe Joseph and Kazemi have all carved out their own niche in Altman’s system, and just this offseason, the Ducks pegged two touted junior college transfers (forward Elgin Cook and guard Jalil Abdul-Bassit) to join Moser on the incoming transfer train.
A team that already includes promising point guard Dominic Artis and emerging forward Damyean Dotson looked like a top-tier Pac-12 outfit without adding a former preseason All American forward. E.J. Singler, Woods and Kazemi anchored last season’s tough Sweet Sixteen group, one that gave eventual National Champion Louisville an exceedingly rigorous 40-minute crucible, and their departures are impossible to brush aside. Moser makes those losses more tolerable. When focused and self-contained and recast in his monstrous 2011-12 form, he comes close to completely erasing them.