Mike Muscala trade reveals a lot about the OKC Thunder rotation

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

Well, what was once expected to be a quiet NBA Trade Deadline for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Sam Presti pulls off yet another surprise. While this move is not league-changing, it is shocking to many around the OKC fanbase and media to see Mike Muscala shipped off to Boston in exchange for two second-round picks and Justin Jackson.

Mike Muscala has long professed his love for Oklahoma City, from the team to the organization and community. Muscala once teared up in his exit interview talking about what this organization means to him. So when the Thunder brought him back in free agency this past summer, we all figured he would last the duration of the deal in Bricktown and be the adult in the room.

However, Sam Presti pulled off a surprise in the early afternoon, working with a Boston Celtics front office he worked closely with before in the Al Horford trade and shipped Mike Muscala to a Championship contender.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have shipped off Mike Muscala to the Boston Celtics in return for two second-round picks, which helps shape the future of OKC.

After the Woj notification lit up Oklahoma City like Christmas in Scissortail Park, the Thunder fanbase began to panic, viewing this as a tanking move. Let’s talk through this together.

For the Thunder to move on from the 31-year-old, I think it is fair to say that they talked with the center beforehand, explained his role for the post-all-star break, and asked if he would prefer to be moved. Thus, he is dealt as he is still playing some good basketball and stroking the three ball at a 39 percent clip. He adds the Celtics’ much-needed center depth and has a real shot at winning a ring.

For OKC, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is close to returning to the NBA level post-injury; with Jaylin Williams demanding minutes with his recent play on the floor, it was growing likely Mike Muscala would see a lot of post-All-Star break DNPs for the third straight season.

So instead of letting Muscala pick up DNP-CDs and having us all brush over it in the box score, Sam Presti flipped Muscala for assets, two second-round picks. If you have kept up with this year’s deadline, or any deadline in recent years, you know that second-round picks this time of year can get you an excellent veteran contributor once this team becomes a contender.

Even if they choose to utilize the pick, look at Sam Presti’s recent run of second-rounders. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Aaron Wiggins, and Jaylin Williams all play a vital role in this scrappy team. In addition, Isaiah Joe was picked in the second round by the 76ers in a move now-Thunder executive Vince Rozman was a part of it as he is tabbed as one of the best scouts in the league.

The Thunder also face a roster crunch this summer, and with waiving Justin Jackson, that is another roster spot cleared up ahead of this Summer time turnover.

While Mike Muscala is a plus-minus merchant and makes this team better, the minutes’ load was not going to be there post-All-Star break. If you are panicking because you view Muscala as a winning player to help this team continue their pursuit of the play-in, take a step back.

This team will have an organic record, and it will either be their young players proving they are good enough to make the play-in a year early, or it will result in juiced lottery odds in a loaded 2023 NBA Draft. Either outcome is considered a win for OKC.

If you desperately want a veteran sharpshooter on this team, Sam Presti swiftly went out and got Dario Saric, who also shoots 39 percent from three.

Dario Saric stats: 37 games, five points, three rebounds, and an assist per game while shooting 39 percent from three.

Mike Muscala stats: 43 games, Six points, three rebounds, and an assist per game while shooting 39 percent from three.

For all the pearl-clutching OKC fans did about this being a tanking move, they replaced Muscala’s production hours later. While It still might not be enough to make the postseason given how wild the Western Conference is, this was not a taking move. Instead, it was an asset accumulation move that worked for all parties involved.

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