Not all second-rounders are created equally. Some players fall because of off the court concerns; others fall into the second-round because they stayed in school too long and their game became overanalyzed; others were just not first-round material Hawks forward Paul Millsap, Pacers guard Lance Stephenson and Suns guard Goran Dragic were all second-round picks, and they've all played at an all-star level this season. Sure, lottery picks have a higher long-term success rate, but the best front offices in the league draft well not just in the first round, but in the second round as well. The Atlanta Hawks 2013 draft class was highlighted by the Hawks two first-round picks in Dennis Schroder, Lucas Nogueira, but their second-round selection Mike Muscala is the easily forgotten one of the bunch. Schroder is expected to be the point guard of the future, Nogueira is expected to be the defensive anchor of the future; but where does Muscala fit in a crowded, but talented, front court?
The injury bug has hit the Hawks hard this season, so much so I'm not sure that it's actually a bug that has attacked this team but rather a Godzilla-esque creature. The front court has been hit the hardest, which is why the Hawks brought Muscala in now. The team has lost 10 of their last 11 games, but are still in the playoffs if they started today. Holding off the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers really shouldn't be much of a problem the rest of the way even taking this recent slide into account.
The Hawks are currently without Millsap, Al Horford, Pero Antic and Gustavo Ayon. Prior to Wednesday's brutal loss to the Boston Celtics veteran big Elton Brand had played a combined total of 84 minutes the previous two games. Danny Ferry and company knew this couldn't go on and now the 2013 second-round pick out of Bucknell is a member of a team fighting to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Muscala spent four years at Bucknell and put up better numbers in just about every statistical category each season, which culminated into a huge senior-season campaign. Muscala became the school's all-time leading scorer, and averaged 23.6 ppg and 14 rpg, per 40 minutes in his last season at Bucknell. Sure, the competition isn't exactly top-tier, however Muscala's skill-set should translate well not only in the NBA; specifically Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer's system.
Muscala's offensive skill-set mirrors Horford's in a number of ways, and it's not just because of their frames and high basketball IQ. You could make the argument that either could play the four just as well as they can play the five in the NBA. Both are great at setting high pick-and-rolls, passing from the top of the key and boast a nifty hook shot. Obviously you can't expect Muscala to rebound at the rate he did in college, but he should still be a huge help in that department, and the Hawks need rebounding help in a major way.
The most intriguing aspect of Muscala's game is his 3-point shot. 2012 second-round pick Mike Scott was in the same situation where he rarely took 3-pointers at the collegiate level, but now has become a big part of his game. Even though it's a small sample, Muscala shot 35 and 36 percent during his junior and sophomore campaigns, respectively. Like Scott, I expect Budenholzer to utilize Muscala's 3-point potential and make that a big part of his NBA repertoire.
After NBA Summer League concluded last year there was a lot of buzz about former Gonzaga star and Celtics' rookie Kelly Olynyk winning the Rookie of the Year award this season. Olynyk, like Muscala, was the guy on a very good Gonzaga team. Olynyk got National Player of the Year consideration because he was on a very good mid-major team and was putting up big numbers. Olynyk averaged 28.9 ppg and 11 rpg per 40 minutes, which was slightly better than what Muscala was putting up at Bucknell. The difference? One team was nationally televised and a championship contender, the other was Bucknell. Olynyk obviously ended up becoming a lottery pick and Muscala was a second-round selection. Had Muscala put up the numbers he did on a mid-major powerhouse like Gonzaga and Olynyk played for Bucknell you could make the case Muscala is a lottery pick last season and Olynyk is a second-round selection.
Danny Ferry has already found one second-round diamond in the rough in Mike Scott, and it looks like he may have found another in Mike Muscala.