Philadelphia 76ers: Let’s-a-go trade for Mike Muscala

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Mike Muscala is a Philadelphia 76ers legend.

Not because of the 47-game tenure he played with the team in 2018-19, or because he’s the only player in the NBA to play his college ball at Bucknell, or even because of his Super Mario 3 tattoo, but because he near-singlehandedly landed the Sixers Tyrese Maxey.

Yup, you read that correctly; in the summer of 2020, August 12th to be exact, Muscala hit a 3 pointer with 5.2 seconds left in the Thunders’ penultimate game of the regular season to officially secure his team a spot in the play-in tournament. It also, funny enough, satisfied the conditions of the first-round pick owed to the 76ers by way of the Orlando Magic, which the team then used to draft Maxey 21st overall a few months later.

For that shot alone, Mike Muscala should never have to buy a cheesesteak in this fair city ever again, but do you know what would be an even nicer present? The Philadelphia 76ers trading for his services once more to give him another shot at prolonged success playing alongside Joel Embiid once more.

The Philadelphia 76ers could use a stretch four like Mike Muscala.

Mike Muscala is an easy player to justify trading for. He only makes $3.5 million with a club option for the 2022-23 season, can play the four or the five, and is draining his 3 point shots at a 42.9 percent clip, which is the best mark of his career thus far.

Do you want a catch-and-shoot specialist from the power forward or even center spot? Muscala ranks 21st league-wide on no dribble 3s among qualifying players at 42.9. How about a player who can set screens in a pick-and-roll? Muscala ranks in the 92.7th percentile league-wide and scores an average of 55.1 percent of the time on the 2.2 possessions per game he runs.

That doesn’t seem like a lot, but considering Muscala only plays 13.7 minutes a night and has a usage rate of 21.2, it’s solid stuff.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Muscala ranks 16th association-wide in Total Raptor rating with a +4.7, as both a positive offensive and defensive Raptor rating, and has a wins above replacement of 2.1, which is the best mark of any player in the NBA who has played less than 600 minutes so far this season.

And the best part, at least for the Philadelphia 76ers? Muscala and Embiid already have a proven track record of playing very well together.

In 2018-19, Muscala and Embiid shared the court for 488 minutes. During that shared time on the court, which was roughly 12.5 minutes per game, the team had a Net rating of 10.4 regardless of who else filled out the lineup and had the fourth-best offensive and defensive ratings of any lineups featuring the collegiate Bucknell Bison. If you can think all the way back to 2018-19, that was before Embiid was a certified point center, before “The Process” was a threat to go coast-to-coast in the full court, and before Muscala was a threat to hit almost half of his attempts from beyond the arc.

Bring that duo back together, and the Sixers could open up a whole world of possibilities for the low-low price of… well, less than what the Thunder want for Kenrich Williams, that’s for sure.

Are you one of those folks who would love to see a John Collins-Tyrese Maxey pick-and-roll? Muscala runs those plays, either as a big four or a stretch five, alongside Maxey for a fraction of Collins’ pricetag. How about the Sixers running an Embiid-plus-shooters look? Doc Rivers could easily trot out a lineup featuring Seth Curry, Furakan Korkmaz, Georges Niang, and Mike Muscala on the wings and give his MVP-caliber center a wealth of potential outlet passes when the help defender comes.

Heck, the Sixers could even try some four-five pick-and-rolls with Embiid as the ball handler and Muscala setting the pick. Very few of Embiid’s points come off of big man screens since neither Niang nor Tobias Harris is a traditional four, so putting Muscala in that role could create some very interesting looks and add another wrinkle to JoJo’s game. Though he only runs .5 pick-and-rolls per game, Embiid ranks in the 95.9th percentile as a ball-handler and could see his offensive bag of tricks expand out even further if he can run the look even a half dozen times per game.

Of the sub-$4 million shooters on the market, Muscala might just be my favorite, as he can check a number of boxes and presents some new looks Philly just can’t run with their current personnel.

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With each passing day, the chances of the Philadelphia 76ers trading away Ben Simmons at the deadline feel less and less likely. The James Harden rumors appear to have some genuine legs, and pairing up his two favorite players is probably too good of an opportunity to pass up for Daryl Morey. But even if the Philadelphia 76ers hold onto their biggest trade chip for a rainy summer day, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t make a move on the margins to improve their roster overall. For the price of as little as $3.1 million in matching salary plus or minus some draft capital, Philly could once again employ Mike Muscala, who is both a perfect fit alongside their two cornerstone players and the very reason why Tyrese Maxey is a member of the team in the first place.