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Mike Muscala coming up big for Hawks

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Through the first few weeks of regular season play, Mike Muscala has become a key contributor off the bench.

NBA: Preseason-Atlanta Hawks at Chicago Bulls
Mike Muscala has emerged as the third big for the Hawks this season.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

In North America, moose injure people more than any other wild mammal. In the NBA, a rare species of moose has terrorized opposing bench units this season. Mike “Moose” Muscala, hailing from the great state of Minnesota aka actual moose territory, has become a vital cog to the Atlanta Hawks as the latest success story from Hawks University.

In his fourth season with Atlanta, the 2013 second round pick from Bucknell has averaged 20.2 minutes per game as the first big off the bench. Muscala has effectively doubled his playing time and field goal attempts from last season, while increasing his field goal percentage.

My favorite obscure Moose stat is his field goal percentage of 62.7 percent being the third best of all NBA players who attempt at least five shots per game. Dwight Howard slots in just ahead of Muscala at 63 percent.

A key factor in his sky high FG percentage, Muscala’s mid range jumper continues to thrive at 61.5 percent on 13 shots so far. Although producing well from basketball analytic’s least favorite shot, Muscala needs to improve his shot from beyond the arc. 28.6 percent from three-point range does not invoke fear into opposing defenders. An increased percentage from downtown would help create more space for himself and others.

While the Hawks have not played a treacherous schedule so far, Muscala has played more, been involved more in the offense, and scored at his most efficient rate yet. Those statistical increases illustrate a significant step forward in Muscala’s development.

On the defensive end of the court, Muscala continues to develop showing increased awareness during off ball situations and rotations. His strength will always be his length and versatility to cover both forwards and centers.

Development takes time in the NBA. Not all franchises have the resources, or patience, to slowly grow young talent. Luckily, Atlanta has become one of the league’s torchbearers for developing and cultivating prospects. Mike Muscala’s ascendance from Euro ball and the D League to key contributor on a likely playoff team demonstrates that commitment to player development.

No longer chained to the back end of the bench, Moose is prospering, running free up and down the plain, or court.