Veteran forward/center Mike Muscala has been a regular, reliable rotation player for the Thunder so far this season, averaging a career-high 9.7 points per game to go along with 3.8 RPG and a .368 3PT% in 34 games (18.6 MPG). However, he received a DNP-CD in the team’s first game of the second half, with youngsters Aleksej Pokusevski and Moses Brown inserted into the rotation following their time in the G League.
“It took Mike out of the rotation, but Mike’s a pro and he’ll stay ready,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said. “Those conversations with Mike are easy, and he makes it easy because of how professional he is.”
It was just one game, but both Pokusevski (14 points, eight rebounds) and Brown (eight points, 12 rebounds) looked good, and there’s no reason to expect the rebuilding Thunder to dial back their young players’ minutes the rest of the way. A playoff team may have more use for a low-cost bench player like Muscala, so he’ll be worth keeping an eye on as the March 25 trade deadline nears.
Here’s more from around the Northwest:
- Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. will be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2021 offseason, and ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider link) says he’d be shocked if Porter’s representatives don’t open negotiations with a “max or nothing” stance. That looming payday is one reason why Denver may be wary of taking on much long-term salary in trades, Lowe notes.
- Despite Damian Lillard‘s repeated insistence that he wants to spend the rest of his career in Portland – and the contract extensions he has signed to back up that stance – it sometimes seems as if everyone wants him to seek a title elsewhere, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, who explores why that’s the case and what a title with the Trail Blazers would mean for Lillard and the franchise.
- In his list of players returning from injuries who could impact the playoff race, Matt Eppers of USA Today has Trail Blazers teammates CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic sharing the top spot. Neither play was active on Thursday, but they’re both believed to be close to returning.
- After a dismal first half, the Timberwolves got off to a promising start in the second half, with young building blocks Jaden McDaniels and Jaylen Nowell playing key roles in head coach Chris Finch’s first win on Thursday, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.