Atlanta Hawks forward/center Mike Muscala played in a career-high 60 games this season but didn't quite take the step forward that many were expecting.
Muscala wrapped up 2015 with a solid performance down the stretch and in the playoffs. That had many people wondering if he could challenge Mike Scott for minutes as the team's backup power forward behind Paul Millsap. It didn't end up working out that way and a lot of it had to do with Scott's improvement. Muscala saw a lot more minutes at center following Tiago Splitter's season-ending injury.
The Kris Humphries signing again limited his minutes and his role late in the regular season but it was Muscala who got the first crack at rotational minutes in the playoffs.
There is a lot to like about Muscala as a player but there are questions as to whether he can make the leap to full-time rotational player. He is a perfect example of what the Hawks look for in a player. By all accounts, he works hard at his game and is a great teammate. He has made strides with his body over time but still needs to add some strength in the post.
Muscala saw his shot attempts drop in 2016 but still managed to connect on 50 percent of his field goal attempts. His three-point percentage dropped to 31 percent but he has shown the ability to make those type of shots in pick and pop situations.
Muscala's best fit positionally for the Hawks might be as a power forward. Scott's resurgence and Splitter's injury really prevented the team from exploring that this season. There would be some challenges defensively but his length would be a plus and his shooting ability would fit with the Hawks' stretch the floor game plan.
There are a lot of unanswered questions regarding the Hawks' roster as we head into the offseason. The impending free agency of Al Horford takes precedence over everything else but unless Atlanta gets into a situation where they need roster spots, I think it is a safe bet that we once again see Muscala in an Atlanta uniform in 2017.
Splitter is reportedly progressing nicely in his rehab from hip surgery. Walter Tavares is a year older and will be looking to take a step forward himself. However, Muscala brings experience and continuity which is something that Atlanta's coaching staff puts a lot of stock in.