“Break out the Salami and Cheese, the HoneyMoon is Over!”
First off all I’d like to apologize for the Chuck Swirsky phrases, but like most Raptors fans I’m suffering from serious withdrawal symptoms and I’m not sure what life will be like in 1 AS (After Swirsky).
Bryan Colangelo and Sam Mitchell had onions, baby, onions to take a 27-year-old journeyman from the Nunavut of the NBA landscape and plant him in the Raptors starting line-up. Jamario Moon rewarded them with solid play and endeared himself to Raptors fans with highlight reel dunks that were getting more hits on YouTube than the Blue Jays got for John Gibbons.
However, like his performance in the Slam Dunk Contest, by the playoffs Moon was taking off more than a foot in front of the free throw line and disappointing Raptors and YouTube fans alike.
Hopefully for Raptors fans, Moon was simply suffering from the rookie fatigue common amongst first year players who previously have never played anywhere close to 82 games in a single season or dealt with so many ball bunnies.
Hopefully, Moon will have made the necessary adjustments to endure the grind of the NBA season and will be able to bring more consistent energy in April. For Moon to be successful in the NBA he has to bring a Bruce Bowen-like focus to defense, a Shawn Marion-like commitment to rebounding and maybe even a Kobe Bryant-like focus on holding press conferences with his family.
Moon has the length and athleticism to be a shut-down wing-defender and with the amount of minutes he played last year he should be a solid 8-10 rebound per game player. Yet against the Magic, Moon was too often beaten off the dribble and caught leaking out at the three point line, while the Raptors bigs hopelessly tried to prevent Dwight Howard from playing keep up with the backboard and trying to break off the rim.
Defense and rebounding are about effort and determination and it simply wasn’t there from Moon.
The addition of Jermaine O’Neal changes the dynamic of the Raptors rotation and unfortunately for Moon it will likely see him shifted to the bench – hopefully with less newspaper headlines than TJ Ford’s demotion. With the low-post threat of O’Neal and mid-range face-up game of Chris Bosh, Coach Sam Mitchell should look to spread the floor with shooters.
Therefore, Jason Kapono, who despite a disappointing regular season turned in a solid performance against the Magic, should slide into the starting small forward slot. In order for Moon to be effective on the new-look Raptors he desperately needs to improve his shooting consistency.
Moon was exposed during the Raptors short playoff appearance as an offensive liability as the Magic routinely left him unguarded and dared him to shoot. Their strategy worked perfectly, as Moon only connected on 37.9% of his field goal attempts and they were able to constantly provide extra help on Chris Bosh. Moon needs to follow the model of Bruce Bowen, who makes his name on the defensive end of the floor, but still forces teams to respect his outside shot.
Therefore, despite possessing a limited offensive game, Bowen is able to play big minutes for the San Antonio Spurs because he can spread the floor.
The addition of O’Neal also means the Raptors will no longer be obliged to start the Italian-Shaq at centre and therefore the Raptors won’t be forced to rely on rebounding out of the small forward position, which eliminates one of Moon’s comparative advantages.
With Carlos Delfino almost out the door, Joey Graham perpetually confused and a weak free agent market at the swing position, the Raptors will need Moon to renew his focus on defense and rebounding and provide a burst of energy off the bench. In order for Moon to truly make an impact this season he must prove to the NBA that he is capable of consistently knocking down jumpers and make them pay for sagging on Bosh or O’Neal.
If he is unable to do so and other teams are smart enough to take advantage of his weaknesses, then he will seriously hamper the Raptors offensively and make the lives of Bosh and O’Neal far more difficult. Here’s hoping that Moon has been following the same workout schedule as the Bank of Montreal star Jason Kapono and is ready to fill the basket.