The Boston Celtics were in the market for size and reached a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Boston sent Justin Jackson and two second round picks to the Thunder in return for 11-year veteran Mike Muscala. Muscala is averaging 6 points and 3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game with OKC. The numbers don’t blow you away, but the fit coupled with the skillset of this particular big has Celtics fans excited.
Muscala, aka Moose, is shooting 39% from three this year which is fifth in the NBA among centers. And according to Taylor Snow he’s number one this past decade.
Mike Muscala has had the best 3P% among NBA bigs over the past 10 seasons.— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) February 10, 2023
The top 3 are all past or current Celtics.
1. Mike Muscala – 37.9%
2. Kelly Olynyk – 36.7%
3. Al Horford – 36.6% pic.twitter.com/5ihNP47XBA
As he seemingly moves ahead of Luke Kornet in the rotation, he enhances the spacing of any unit he’s a part of. Furthermore, he shoots 37.5% on catch and shoot threes as well as 38.5% from the corner. One underrated aspect of Muscala’s arsenal is his movement. According to BBall Index, Moose ranks in the 98th percentile in movement speed for players in his offensive role (stretch-big). Muscala clearly isn’t the fastest player, but this stat does show in game. OKC is third in the league in fast break points and a lot of times you see Muscala sprinting to open space looking to get a three up. Another part of his game I like is how he uses his gravity as a shooter.
When you shoot it as well as Muscala you have to learn when and how to attack close outs. Trying to catch up on almost every minute Moose has played this season, I’ve found that he is very in-depth at reading what to do when teams try to run him off the arc.
First, he pump fakes and side steps easily for the three.
The next two clips show his effectiveness as a pick and pop partner without shooting. The opposition realizes they messed up leaving a great shooter open and Muscala shows great IQ on two passes that make the defense pay for late close outs.
The fake jump shot pass has grown on me as it pulls the defense in just a tad bit longer allowing the passing lane to stay open. Lastly, here he uses the pump fake to step in for an easy midrange.
I cannot wait to see the scoring and playmaking of the Celtics core get Muscala wide open looks.
The most surprising thing I found diving into Muscala ball is his level of physicality and ability to challenge shots in the paint. Here are how his numbers look in terms of interior defense.
Mike Muscala surprisingly active as a rim protector? pic.twitter.com/DMl9iJX8b1— Nik☘️ (@__Kingnik) February 9, 2023
Now let’s be 100% clear. Muscala is no Robert Williams or Al Horford when it comes to defending the paint or even Derrick White for that matter. He is not a great perimeter defender and teams may try to get switches to go at him. But for the price you paid coupled with the impact he could have offensively, Muscala certainly overachieves. In his minutes he is super active at the rim and is actually an above average deterrent.
The defensive skill I found most interesting about Muscala was his pick and roll defense. He has thrived navigating through ball screens and when drivers come directly at him trying to score, they have a rough time. He will have trouble if guys reset after the pick and roll and attack him one on one, but these clips show his ability on downhill drivers.
This second one is really impressive to me because he pressures the hand off by Steven Adams then takes a great angle to close the space on the quicker Dillon Brooks.
With Al Horford’s age and Robert Williams’ injury history the Celtics desperately needed another big for insurance. Jakob Poeltl was the consensus favorite target amongst Celtics fans, but he was dealt to Toronto. Not many people had their eyes fixated on Mike Muscala but for the price he was acquired at, it’s a steal. I believe he can have a real impact for the C’s going forward.
Next Game: Friday February 10, Vs. Charlotte Hornets
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