With the 44th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks selected Bucknell center Mike Muscala, and they will promptly trade his rights to the Atlanta Hawks pending league approval of their deal.
Muscala is an interesting pick for the Hawks, as they already appear to be set at center with veteran Al Horford in the lineup. Horford has been known to miss some time with injuries over the years, but he’s also still in the middle of a five-year, $60 million contract that was signed in 2010. Not that this should be a surprise for a small-school guy in the latter stages of the draft, but Muscala will be a depth guy, who will provide some valuable rest minutes for Horford as he develops his own pro game.
What’s particularly intriguing here is that the Mavericks made this trade to attempt to free up cap space to make a run at Dwight Howard as soon as free agency begins on July 1, and Howard has made it known that the Mavericks and Hawks are on his short list of teams he may sign with. Of course, this is all assuming that he decides to leave the Los Angeles Lakers. This is just another puzzle piece in the NBA salary-cap game.
None of this is to say that Muscala isn’t going to provide some value to the Hawks. Muscala is Bucknell’s all-time scoring record holder, a multiple-time Patriot League Player of the Year, and an AP All-American Honorable Mention from the 2010-11 season. Twice, he led the Bison to the NCAA Tournament, including this past season, when his college career ended with a loss to the Butler Bulldogs.
Muscala brings some great size and nice footwork for a big man. He’s dangerous on the boards (11.1 per game in 2012-13), and a solid free-throw shooter, just under 80% from the stripe last year. While I don’t expect he’ll see much time for the Hawks this year, he’s got the kind of game that leads to a solid NBA career, even if he’s never an All-Star.