5 things analytics say about Mike Muscala’s game

5 things analytics say about Mike Muscala’s game originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Mike Muscala has enjoyed a long and successful NBA career of 10 seasons, which is not bad at all for a second round pick who was taken 44th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. After playing for five different teams, he is now in Washington having come over from Boston in the deal that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Celtics and brought Tyus Jones and Danilo Gallinari to the Wizards.

Muscala projects to be the Wizards’ primary back-up center behind Daniel Gafford. It is an important role and one that could lead to considerable minutes and maybe even some starts.

Before Muscala takes the floor for the Wizards this fall, here’s a closer look at his game using metrics that go beyond the box score…

Keeps it moving

One defining characteristic of Muscala as an offensive player is ball movement. The guy wastes no time at all with his decision-making and that could be beneficial as head coach Wes Unseld Jr. strives for an equal share offense. Consider this: last season Muscala was No. 1 in the NBA among qualified players in fewest average seconds per touch (1.14). He also averaged the fewest dribbles per touch (0.26) of any qualified player.

Muscala also moves well without the ball. He was tied for ninth among qualified players last season in average speed on offense (4.92). Landry Shamet and Corey Kispert were also top-50 among players who appeared in at least 40 games last season. All three of those guys could be in the Wizards’ second unit, depending on whether Kispert starts at the three. There’s a chance the Wizards’ bench offense has a lot of motion to it.

Makes open threes

Much like his former and also current teammate Gallinari, Muscala is adept at making wide open threes, which are defined by NBA tracking data as plays where the defender is at least six feet away from the shooter. Muscala shot 40.4% on those plays last season, 47.3% the year before and 45.3% the season before that. Given the Wizards struggled to make their open threes, relatively speaking, both players could help the Wizards shore up a problem area and improve the team’s overall efficiency in the process.

Also like Gallinari, Muscala is low-key one of the better shooting big men out there. He is one of only 20 players in NBA history listed 6-foot-10 or taller to make at least 450 career threes while shooting over 37.5%. Some comparisons for his career 3-point percentage (37.9%) at 6-foot-10 or above would be Gallinari (38.2%), Bobby Portis (38.1%), Dirk Nowitzki (38%) and Lauri Markkanen (37.1%). The big difference, of course, is volume which is part of why Nowitzki is the all-time great among that group.

One dribble, shoot

There is an odd quirk in Muscala’s numbers and that is he is much better shooting off one dribble than he is off zero dribbles or when he puts the ball on the floor multiple times. Take a look at how Muscala’s field goal percentage skyrockets when he dribbles the ball just once:













So, what does it mean? Well, first of all, the sample size isn’t exactly huge, though there is a clear trend. And just because the trend is there, it doesn’t mean the Wizards’ coaching staff will be going out of their way to design plays for Muscala to shoot off of one dribble. Still, it’s likely something the staff will notice and take a look at. Either way, it’s something to keep an eye out for this season when you watch Wizards games.

Efficient from all over

Muscala put in an impressive shot chart last season in his 63 games across time with both the Thunder and Celtics. He was essentially good from everywhere; at the rim, in the midrange and from three. On 292 total field goal attempts in 2022-23, he shot 69.7% in the restricted area, 51.7% in the paint non-restricted area, 52.2% in the midrange, 41.4% on left corner threes, 38.1% on right corner threes and 38.9% on threes above the break. Those numbers are courtesy of NBA.com’s tracking data.

Usually, players are good in some areas and not so good in others. And this is, to be fair, only taking into account Muscala’s numbers from last season. It is also, once again, coming from a small sample size. Still, Muscala can be dangerous from many places on the floor. Looking at his career trajectory, corner threes have long been a strength. He shoots 39.7% on corner threes, taking a fairly high 24% of his total 3-point attempts from the corners.

Screen setter

There is no way around the fact Porzingis is going to be difficult to replace and one area where there is likely to be a void is in setting screens. Last year, Gafford was 18th in the NBA in total screen assists (240), best on the Wizards. Porzingis was not far behind at 31st (184).

Now you take Porzingis out of the equation and the next guy up on that list who is currently on the Wizards roster is Muscala. He was 104th in the NBA last season with 55 screen assists. Gallinari in 2021-22, his last healthy season, was 103rd with 63 screen assists, so both of them can help pitch in. But as it stands now, Muscala could be the primary screen-setter in the second unit. The good news is he’s a fairly decent roll man in pick-and-roll actions. Last season he was top-50 in points per possession (1.33) and on par with guys like Gafford (1.34), Domantas Sabonis (1.33) and Markkanen (1.33).

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top