Mike Muscala minutes provide a lot for the future of the OKC Thunder

Mike Muscala #33 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Mike Muscala #33 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder sit at 18-23, currently a game and a half out of the NBA Western Conference Play-In tournament, three games back of the 6th seed in the West to avoid the play-in tournament, and eight games back of the worst record in the NBA. The OKC Thunder are also five and a half games away from the fourth-worst record in the NBA, where they finished each of the last two seasons. While it is most likely the Thunder end the year where they currently sit, with the seventh-best odds at a top pick, playing Mike Muscala bodes well for the future of OKC regardless of their win-loss record.

Considering the injury bug the OKC Thunder have been hit with, losing Chet Holmgren for the season, and seeing Ousmane Dieng, Aleksej Pokusevski, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl all miss extended time, the Thunder have weathered the storm of the season extremely well.

With Mark Daigneault getting national recognition, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continuing to play like an All-NBA caliber player, not to mention Josh Giddey’s fantastic December stretch, and lottery pick Jalen Williams appearing to be the steal of the 2022 NBA Draft, There is a lot to be excited about with the future of this organization.

So how does 31-year-old Mike Muscala fit into all this? Of all the young options Mark Daigneault could deploy, why should Muscala be shoehorned into the rotation? It is for just that, a brighter future. Though, not in the way you might think.

The Oklahoma City Thunder need to find more minutes for 31-year-old big man Mike Muscala regardless of age and win-loss record in a move that will help the future of the organization

If you have been keeping up with the OKC Thunder season so far, you are aware of just how incredible Mike Muscala’s on/off statistics are with the team. When on the floor, Muscala makes the Thunder a +10.7 differential as the team scores 119.6 points per 100 possessions which places them in the 91st percentile, with 109 points per 100 possessions on the defensive end ranking in the 90th percentile.

Those numbers improve even more when Mike Muscala shares the floor with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, and Jalen Williams that five-man lineup is a +23.2, scoring 126 points per 100 possessions. Though, in a small sample size of just 103 possessions of his 937 possessions played.

All of those statistics are per cleaning the glass, and they show why Mike Muscala should get more minutes specifically with the core four starters. Muscala’s role mirrors what they will make 2nd overall pick Chet Holmgren to do.

Pick-and-pop triples, trailing three-pointers, slip screens, an Iverson cut to the other side of the three-point line for a catch-and-shoot three, a few shots from the post,  and playing drop coverage on the defensive end while walling up at the rim.

At 7’0 Holmgren offers more rim protection than Muscala (though Muscala has a 2.1 block percentage which ranks in the 61st percentile), but in terms of the offensive flow and finding shots for all the young mouths to feed, the 31-year-old gives the team a glimpse of how they will need to play next season with Chet Holmgren back in the fold.

While the numbers suggest this would lead to more wins, and maybe that is true though maybe as the sample size gets larger it does not dramatically impact the win-loss record, which is secondary to the real reason to pull the trigger on more Muscala minutes.

This is a small way to simulate how to integrate one of your best assets onto the floor. Putting this on film for Chet Holmgren himself to study both independently and ask Muscala questions for why or how he performed with that lineup, as well as getting Giddey, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Jalen Williams prepared for what their roles look like with a floor-spacing big.

Chet Holmgren projects to be much better than Muscala and it is hard to simulate seven-foot unicorn minutes, but this is something to OKC Thunder should at least try in an attempt to maximize this season.

Next. Chet Holmgren not being forgotten by National Media. dark