After a season in which he was a legitimate contributor to the rotation for the Atlanta Hawks, Mike Muscala probably doesn't need to be in Las Vegas for Summer League. In fact, the 6-foot-11 big man was the lone member of the Hawks that appeared to be in full control of his game on Friday night, as the Hawks fell to the Denver Nuggets by a rather lopsided margin at 86-71.
Still, there is a school of thought that a player with Muscala's combination of youth and importance to the organization should be given every opportunity to mature under the tutelage of the team's structure.
"I think he wants to improve as a player," LVSL head coach Kenny Atkinson said, "we, as a staff, decided that this was another tool to get better. The good thing about this is that he can be the focal point a little."
Atkinson also referenced Muscala's opportunity to serve as the first option and lead the team over the next ten days, even stating that it would be a "great experience all around" for the former Bucknell standout.
On the surface, Muscala's statistical profile from Friday night wasn't terribly inspiring. He finished with just 8 points, on 3-for-12 shooting, and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes, but while he struggled in the second half, it was clear from the opening bell that he was the best player for Atlanta.
In echoing Atkinson's statements, Muscala had this to say about why he chose/agreed to play in Las Vegas and what he wanted to improve on as a player:
"The little things. I think my ball-handling, my passing, my finishing around the rim… just getting more comfortable in the offense and taking my time. I think that’s what really good offensive players in this league do, is that they are really patient, and they are really comfortable in their moves and their shots."
Specifically, Muscala is being given the opportunity to play the power forward spot this week, which aligns with his default deployment for the 2015-2016 squad after the addition of Tiago Splitter. Muscala said of his defensive responsibilities at the 4 defensively, "It’s different. Kind of being more of the shift guy, and not necessarily being the guy that’s coming over to alter shots or block shots."
In truth, Mike Muscala is vastly overqualified for participation in the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League. Still, the organization and player have made it clear that he is being deployed for a specific purpose, and that provides cover as he significantly improves the overall product of the squad.
Stay tuned as the Hawks spring into action once again on Sunday evening.