Jason Timperley @jason_timperley writes about the Philadelphia 76ers for Last Out Media, specialising the the CBA and Salary Cap issues.
Based on his track record of making in season moves to improve his roster, Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey will be very active leading up to the March 25 NBA trade deadline. Even if there is no blockbuster (Bradley Beal) trade available, there are moves that can be made on the margins that can increase this Sixers teams chances of securing the Larry O’Brien trophy.
“We’re pretty much championship or bust”Daryl Morey, on ESPN
The last quarter of the come from behind victory against the Indiana Pacers aside, the Sixers have struggled every time Joel Embiid is off the floor. My previous article (link below) discusses the merit of adding a stretch big in P.J. Tucker or Nemanja Bjelica. This time we discuss a former Sixer that has incredibly become more popular with Sixers fans since he last played for the team in February 2019.
Whilst he played 47 games for the Sixers in 2018/19 it was his last second heroics in the bubble for OKC (August) that made Mike Muscala a hero to Sixers fans. He hit a game winning three-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining which meant the Thunder conveyed their top 20 protected draft pick to Philadelphia (the pick was used to select Tyrese Maxey). While this shot certainly impressed new Sixers President of Basketball Operations, Daryl Morey, it is the conistency and volume of his long range shooting that could make him an ideal fit on the 2020/21 Sixers.
The 6’10” Muscala arrived in Philadelphia in a three team trade in July 2018 and he filled the role previously occupied by Ersan Ilyasova (currently a free agent) as a backup stretch big, spending time at both the center and power forward positions. Coach Brett Brown saw the value of pairing the long range shooting Muscala with Ben Simmons. According to Basketball-Reference.com Muscala spent 621 of his 1060 minutes in the lineup with Simmons, more time than he spent with any other Sixer. Muscala was serviceable in his 47 games with Philadelphia before he was included for salary matching purposes in the Tobias Harris trade.
Muscala has spent the past two seasons on the Oklahoma City Thunder and he is putting up a career high 9.1 points per game on a rebuilding Thunder team this year. Playing strictly as a five, his primary offensive role is spotting up on the perimeter, but he is also very effective in the pick and pop. Muscala is getting up an incredible 14.6 three point attempts per 100 possessions (currently 6th in the league and by far the most among centers), and connecting at a .372 clip. Over 75% of his shot attempts are from behind the three point line. This is likely very attractive to President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey, who’s previous team, the Houston Rockets led the league in three point rate in each of the last seven seasons.
Whilst he is an inferior rim protector and rebounder (particularly at the offensive end) to both Dwight Howard and Tony Bradley, the extra spacing that Muscala would provide at the offensive end will benefit the Sixers
Muscala is in the second and final year of a $4.3m contract. Whilst he is playing well this season, it is unlikely that the 29 year old would be in the Thunder’s long term plans and they may prefer rolling the dice on a younger Furkan Korkmaz or Tony Bradley (both 23 years old) who could be sent back as matching salary in a trade. Of course, Sam Presti may also insist on a (second round) draft pick which is the cost of doing business with the Thunder these days.
Muscala could also be a part of a larger trade which could satisfy some other needs. An example;
Sixers get; P.J. Tucker, George Hill, Mike Muscala.
OKC get; Tony Bradley, Mike Scott, Sixers 2021 First Round Pick
Houston get; Terrance Ferguson, Vincent Poirier and 3 second round picks (two from PHI and one from OKC)
On a less serious side, it would be incredible to see Muscala in a championship parade down Broad Street alongside Tyrese Maxey, a player that is only on the Sixers because of Muscala’s game winning shot against Miami in August.