Mike Muscala - SR - PF - Bucknell
There are always going to be questions about the level of competition regarding prospects coming from small schools, but regardless of the opponent, Mike Muscala has as refined an offensive post game as any prospect in the draft. He is an incredibly efficient offensive player, especially considering how much Bucknell depends on him to orchestrate their entire offense. Muscala can do just about everything that teams look for in their forwards and centers on the offensive end. With his back to the basket, Muscala can shoot over either shoulder when turning into the paint, pivot away from the basket for a turnaround jumper, or utilize a drop step towards the baseline and shield the defender to get a good look off the glass. He is an outstanding passer out of the post, displaying great vision when a second defender runs at him in finding the open man on just about every area of the court. For a player of his size, Muscala is extremely comfortable with the ball outside the paint. He will often get the ball at the left elbow or on either baseline, take two dribbles and create space for a short jumper from the paint. He is a very consistent shooter from the midrange, with excellent range from the elbow extended or either baseline within 16-18 feet. He has a high release and smooth form on his jump shot. He can play the pick and roll by darting to the rim, or the pick and pop by creating space for an open look from inside the arc, a very translatable skill that is essential for big men in the NBA. He has great hands, catches the ball in traffic, and spaces the floor very well. He anticipates misses off of the rim very well, and carves out space to contribute on the offensive glass. His offensive game is refined, efficient, and versatile. He can work from the block, elbow, or baseline to create his own shot, or create looks for shooters out of the post. His shooting skill from the midrange makes him an asset in a slow-paced, pick and roll heavy offensive set. His offensive skills translate very well to the NBA game, and he is ready to contribute on the offensive end almost immediately in the NBA
Muscala has great size and length, but lacks elite explosiveness at or near the rim. He sometimes struggles with putbacks in traffic, taking two or three attempts off of his own miss before converting. He does not play against much size at all in the Patriot League, meaning he will have to improve his touch in traffic at the next level. Muscala tends to force shots against longer and more athletic players from time to time. He does not translate well to an up-tempo style of offense, as he does not have great speed and does not run the floor well. There are also concerns about the speed of his game, particularly from the elbow and baseline. He likes to operate from the outside in, but needs to improve the quickness of his first step for these types of moves to translate against quicker and longer defenders in the NBA.
Muscala’s value on the defensive end comes as a shot blocker helping against drives from the perimeter. He times his defensive rotations extremely well, leaving just in time to get to the player penetrating without leaving his man open for too long. He times his leap extremely well to compromise for his lack of elite leaping ability, and is able to block shots without fouling. When defending players in the post, he does a great job of staying low and playing with leverage. He excels against traditional back-to-the basket offensive players that he can keep in front of him. On the glass, he is one of the best defensive rebounders in the country. He is a fundamentally sound rebounder, getting low and looking to box out rather than reaching or leaping for the ball. He does not allow his man to get to the offensive glass because he puts his body into him so quickly. He is solid against the pick and roll, and shows an ability to hedge on high ball screens and retreat to the paint without his man beating him to the rim
Where Muscala struggles on the defensive end is against quicker and more athletic forwards. He does not have good foot speed or lateral quickness, a problem when leaving the paint to guard stretch 4s. He struggles when he is forced to guard a man in space, or if he gets stranded against a wing player when guarding the pick and roll. He will need to add more lower body strength to guard the 4s and 5s in the NBA, especially because of his inability to guard for too long on the perimeter. Muscala also has to improve his defensive rebounding in space, when he is boxing out against players with elite athleticism and leaping ability. He will have to improve his quickness to acclimate to a league that features more athletic forwards and post players than it did just a few years ago.
There are questions about the quality of competition that Muscala goes up against at Bucknell, as well as his overall ceiling considering that he does not dominate with athleticism, but he possesses an extremely diverse and refined offensive game that can contribute to an NBA offense almost immediately. For such a strong post scorer, Muscala is extremely comfortable shooting from the midrange or dribbling into the paint. He is an elite rebounder and a strong shot blocker with size, passing ability, and a basketball IQ that simply cannot be taught. He needs to show that he can guard the stretch 4s and athletic centers that dominate the current NBA landscape, and that his production in the paint will continue when going up against longer and more athletic defenders. But with strong performances against the top opponents on his team’s schedule (Missouri in particular) Muscala has proven that, with an NBA-ready offensive skill set, he can contribute in a half court offense from the day that he is drafted.