I apologize to E'Twaun Moore before I even start writing this post. I am going to give him the dreaded "tweener" label and talk about what position Moore fits in best.
I hate doing this. I watched Moore play a lot while he was at Purdue, playing alongside Boston's JaJuan Johnson and alongside Kissimmee product Keaton Grant, Minnesota's Robbie Hummel and defensive ace Chris Kramer. In West Lafayette, he was a great defender and a great scorer. On those balanced Purdue teams, he was aggressive and an able scorer.
In his four years at Purdue, Moore averaged 15.3 points per game, shooting 43.9 percent from the floor and posting a 50.8 percent effective field goal percentage. Moore was a solid college player on a team that focused on defense and had limited possessions. He also had the benefit of a strong defensive team around him led by forward JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummel. These were good Purdue teams.
When Moore got to Boston, his scoring made him a good fit for the roster. He averaged 2.9 points per game in 8.7 minutes per game, shooting 37.8 percent from beyond the arc and posting a 45.6 percent effective field goal percentage. In a lesser role, Moore struggled to get off the pine. But he remains a solid defender and a decent playmaker for himself. He has improved as a 3-point shooter, as we saw in the game against the Magic last year, and is still developing who he is as a player.
For the Magic in four preseason games, Moore has expanded and shown more of his game. Moore is second on the team in total points scored and has 11.3 points per game on 40.4 percent shooting. These are the stats that Moore typically looks at. That is the role he took on for much of his career in college.
The Magic are asking him to do something very different. And he seems to be excelling at it.
Moore has been getting all the minutes as Orlando's backup point guard with Ish Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury. Moore has had his bumps in the road, but also many of his successes. His play both in games and in practice have given the coaching staff enough confidence to turn the job over to him and he appears to have made the roster, according to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com.
Moore has seen his assists rise to a team-best 6.0 per game. In college, Moore posted a career average of 2.9 assists per game. His career high for assists in college was seven, set three times including twice in his senior year. Moore does not fit the mold of a point guard.
Yet, he does not quite fit the mold of an NBA shooting guard. Yes, in college you can get away with being a super-athletic 6-foot-4 wing player, but not at the NBA level. Not with guys like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade coming at you physically every night. Point guard is not much easier with the speed and athleticism coming from modern point guards. The NBA is not the place to learn how to play the position.
But here is Moore. Doing what he has been doing since he was at Purdue — being whatever his team needs him to be.
In Boston, the Celtics needed him to be a spot-up shooter for the most part. He did that. At Purdue, the Boilermakers needed him to be a scorer and defender. He did that.
Moore might be the jack-of-all-trades kind of player, stuck in a body that leaves him in that dreaded netherworld between point guard and shooting guard. A tweener indeed.
But a capable one. We have seen Moore record eight assists in a game already. He is capable of creating plays not only for himself, but for others. He needs to become a more efficient as an offensive player, particularly when his minutes shrink to their normal amount, but his natural offensive instincts, his versatility and his ability to play defense are things the Magic surely treasure in him.
E'Twaun Moore might still be figuring out where he belongs in the league. The Magic are just giving him another opportunity to develop and grow. Perhaps here, Moore will find the role that works best for him.