When we talk about the Magic’s core young players Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless surely come to mind pretty quickly. The interesting part about the final 15 games of this season will be part the continued development of these players as they head into yet another offseason.
The other interesting part will be the guys that are still fighting for their NBA lives. Dewayne Dedmon is staying for the rest of the season and will (surely) get more playing time this time around. Kyle O’Quinn has seen his playing time and his production increase in recent weeks.
The forgotten player in this mix is E’Twaun Moore.
The 6-foot-4, 25-year-old guard was the original utility guard for the Magic. After largely playing shooting guard at Purdue and in his rookie year with Boston, the Magic asked him to play point guard much the same way they did with Victor Oladipo. Moore thrived in the role, coming off the bench behind Jameer Nelson all eyar.
Moore, sort of like he was in college, was never absolutely spectacular. His talent showed through in flashes and he continued to kind of cruise along.
But then there are the moments that show that Moore has carved a place for himself on this team and in this league. He has the simple instinct to know how to score — #ETwaunTheFloater — and the courage to hit big shots when those opportunities arise.
To use Jacque Vaughn’s words after a November win over the Clippers where Moore scored 12 points and hit two of three 3-pointers — E’Twaun Moore is a gamer.
“He’s a gamer for one,” Vaughn said. “He loves playing the game of basketball and he loves competing. That gives him a good chance when he steps out ont he floor. He’s not afraid of the moment either. I don’t know if it’s his background and the fact that he’s not afraid of the moment.”
You have to have those qualities to be a star for Matt Painter at Purdue — where a clock with the motto “time to get to work” rests over the entryway to the locker room. Moore is not quite the player he was at Purdue. He does not have to play that role where he uses 26.8 percent of possessions like he did his senior year in West Lafayette.
Moore had to find his way a bit and Orlando was the place where he found it.
This year has been something of an extension of his first year in Orlando. Moore is averaging 6.4 points per game and 43.4 percent field goal shooting. His offensive numbers have slipped from last year. Moore has had his struggles, but he has had his moments too.
That game against the Clippers was certainly one of those. So too has the month of March.
In March, Moore is averaging 8.9 points per game on 51.1 percent shooting and an outstanding 59.6 percent effective field goal percentage. Yes, that is just seven games but Moore has played well off Orlando’s bench through all the lineup changes and injuries that have hit Orlando recently.
In March, the team is posting a 101.6 offensive rating and the team posts a +1.5 net rating with him on the floor. For a team that has struggled as much as Orlando and has an offensive rating less than 100.0, those numbers are a very positive sign for a young team and a young player.
“I’m just trying to finish strong and just keep playing hard,” Moore said. “We have 15 more games left, I just want to leave a good impression.
“As long as you stay consistent with what you’re doing and people know what you can do, they know what you can do night in and night out. They know I’m going to play hard, they know I’m going to shoot the ball. Just stay consistent with what I can do.”
Consistency is the question for every young player. And that has been Moore’s issue. Every young player has to find their way in the NBA and Moore is doing that, adjusting to whatever role the Magic throw at him.
What has had to remain consistent is his defense. Moore is a bit undersized for the shooting guard position, but he remains a pesky defender.
Even as he has gone through some awful stretches, Moore keeps the same confidence — the true definition of a “gamer” — and same intensity. He is someone his teammates still rely on.
“He’s confident,” Arron afflalo said. “He enjoys the fourth quarter, he’s willing to take those shots but he is also a very pesky defender. I know coach is very confident with having him out there on the court when he’s playing within his game and doing the things that he does well.”
This year has double importance for the third-year player however. He is coming off his minimum two-year contract with the Magic and will be a restricted free agent this summer, assuming the Magic decide to make him a qualifying offer of approximately $1.1 million. There would be no reason not to do so at this point unless the Magic draft another point guard.
These last 15 games are also an audition for Moore. That is the reality of the business part of the NBA. And so his great play recently could not have come at a better time for him. And for his team.
“Every time I have been on the court, I have been successful and contributing some how the last three years, not just the last two,” Moore said. “Every time I go out there, I want to show that I can play.”
In flashes, Moore certainly has.