Mike Muscala

Thunder Notes: Muscala, Offseason, Starting Five

As the Thunder‘s roster has undergone a teardown in recent years, one of the most surprising constants has been big man Mike Muscala, who has spent the last two seasons in Oklahoma City. On the surface, a veteran role player like Muscala seems like an odd fit for a team in the midst of a full-fledged rebuild, but he said during his end-of-season interview in May that his time with the franchise has helped him “a lot as a man and as a player.”

As Paris Lawson of OKCThunder.com writes, the Thunder appreciate Muscala’s dedication to the team and rewarded him this offseason with a two-year, $7MM deal that’s fully guaranteed for the 2021/22 season.

“I am tremendously grateful and very moved by the way he feels about the team and the organization,” executive VP of basketball operations Sam Presti said. “I think he really connects with the vision that we have for what we stand for and how we try to operate on a day-to-day basis. We’re not trying to be all things to all people, but there are going to be people that really thrive in this environment and enjoy it, and those are also the people that really help make it what it is.”

Here’s more on the Thunder:

Northwest Notes: Barton, Green, Robinson-Earl, Muscala, Brown

In an Instagram video, ESPN’s Bobby Marks broke down two of the Nuggets’ contracts, clarifying that Will Barton is on a descending two-year deal, with $30MM fully guaranteed. He’ll receive $15.6MM in year one and $14.37MM in year two. Keith Smith of Spotrac adds that Barton’s deal includes $1MM in unlikely bonuses in each of the two years.

Marks also outlined Nuggets’ forward Jeff Green‘s new contract, which is a two-year, $9MM pact with $1MM in bonuses. Green will have a player option in year two, as had been previously reported. Marks notes that Green had been on minimum-salary contracts for several seasons, so this contract represents a big win for him and his agent.

We have more news from around the Northwest Division:

  • While the general terms of the Thunder’s No. 32 pick Jeremiah Robinson-Earl have been previously reported, Keith Smith provides a breakdown of the exact amount of Robinson-Earl’s four-year deal. The ex-Villanova Wildcat will receive two years at $2MM, fully guaranteed, followed by $1.9MM non-guaranteed in year three, and a non-guaranteed team option of $1.98MM in year four. OKC signed Robinson-Earl using part of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception.
  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype confirms via tweet that Mike Muscala‘s contract with the Thunder is for $7MM over two years, and adds that the second year is a team option. This will be the third straight season in OKC for the 30-year-old center
  • Scotto also clarifies the terms of Greg Brown III’s deal with the Trail Blazers. The 43rd pick, for whom the Blazers traded a 2026 second-round pick and cash considerations, will receive a three-year, $4.3MM (minimum-salary) deal, with the first two years fully guaranteed. The final year of the contract will be non-guaranteed. The signing used Portland’s mid-level exception.

Thunder Re-Sign Mike Muscala To Two-Year Deal

AUGUST 12: The Thunder have officially re-signed Muscala, per a team press release.


AUGUST 2: The Thunder will re-sign free agent big man Mike Muscala to a two-year, $7MM contract, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (via Twitter).

Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (Twitter link) that Muscala had Earl Bird rights with the Thunder, so Oklahoma City won’t need to use a portion of its mid-level exception to complete the signing.

He was drafted out of Bucknell with the No. 44 pick in 2013, and logged time with the Hawks, Sixers, and Lakers. Muscala, 30, then joined the Thunder for the first time as a free agent in the summer of 2019.

A 6’10” power forward/center with long-range abilities, he enjoyed his best statistical season during 2020/21 while playing for the rebuilding Thunder. Last year, Muscala averaged a career-best 9.7 PPG in 18.4 MPG, to go along with 3.8 RPG. He posted a solid shooting line of .446/.370/.917.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Western Notes: Booker, Paul, Curry, Muscala

Suns star Devin Booker is ready to produce in the playoffs after Phoenix’s six-year postseason drought, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes.

“It’s been a long journey since I’ve been here,” Booker said. “A full six years to get to this point and I know it’s been even longer for the city of Phoenix and this organization to get to this point. So I don’t want to take these opportunities for granted. We gave the fans what they wanted with a playoff berth and now, we want to give them even more of what they asked for.” 

Booker is looking to create something special in Phoenix, finishing with 34 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in a Game 1 victory over the Lakers on Sunday. The team will host Game 2 on Tuesday.

There’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:

  • Suns guard Chris Paul sustained a right shoulder contusion in the club’s game against the Lakers, the team announced (Twitter link). Paul appeared to be in significant pain before exiting for the locker room. He later returned for a brief stint, exited again and returned to finish the game. With Phoenix up 1-0 in the series, it’s an injury to monitor as the team looks to take a 2-0 lead this week.
  • The Warriors owe Stephen Curry more next season, says Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Golden State failed to make the playoffs despite an excellent season from Curry, who averaged a league-best 32 points per game on 48% shooting from the floor and 42% shooting from deep.
  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman examines why veteran big man Mike Muscala wanted to stay with the Thunder this season. Oklahoma City shut down Muscala and teammate Al Horford to focus on its young core late in the season, but Muscala had no interest in leaving the team. “I’m going to get a little emotional probably,” he said as part of a larger quote. “But coming to OKC, it was just like — I’m grateful for it, and it helped me a lot as a man and as a player.”

Northwest Notes: Horford, Muscala, Towns, Vanderbilt, Nuggets

The rebuilding Thunder shut down big men Al Horford and Mike Muscala in the second half of the 2020/21 season, with neither veteran playing a single minute after the March trade deadline. Muscala is now facing unrestricted free agency, while Horford has two years left on his contract, including a partial guarantee in the second year.

Asked today about their respective futures, neither player sounded certain he’d be back in Oklahoma City in ’21/22, but Muscala said he’d “love to be here” going forward, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. Meanwhile, an offseason trade to a team closer to contention seems like a realistic next step for Horford, and he didn’t rule out that possibility.

I’m sure that I’ll be talking with the team and we’ll figure out what’s best,” Horford said, per Mussatto (Twitter link).

Here are a few more notes from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns told reporters today that he won’t require offseason surgery on the wrist he dislocated at the start of the season, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • In a story for The Athletic, Krawczynski takes a deep dive into the long, winding path that Jarred Vanderbilt took to become an NBA regular for the first time this season. The Timberwolves forward, who had logged 120 total minutes in two NBA seasons entering 2020/21, started 30 of the 64 games he played this year, averaging 5.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG on 60.6% shooting in 17.8 minutes per contest.
  • The Nuggets are increasing the capacity of Ball Arena for the playoffs from 4,050 fans (22.1% capacity) to a maximum attendance of 7,750 (42.3%), according to The Denver Post. Denver is one of a handful of teams expecting more fans at postseason games, as coronavirus-related gathering limits begin to loosen in states across the nations.

Northwest Notes: M. Brown, Muscala, Blazers, Beasley, Nuggets

Moses Brown‘s new contract with the Thunder is a four-year deal worth $6.8MM, according to Royce Young of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that the second and third years are non-guaranteed. There’s a fourth-year team option for 2023/24, Young adds.

If Brown keeps playing like he has in his last four games (14.3 PPG, 16.8 RPG), that deal could wind up being a major bargain for the Thunder. However, one aspect of it is relatively player-friendly — as Bobby Marks of ESPN observes (via Twitter), Brown’s rest-of-season salary of $1.25MM is about $750K than he would have earned if he received the prorated minimum.

Because Oklahoma City remains about $4MM below the minimum salary floor, per Marks, there was no reason for the team not to go above the 2020/21 minimum for Brown. The Thunder’s cap situation also provides little incentive to try to save money by buying out any of their current veterans, so it makes sense that Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman is reporting that a buyout with Mike Muscala is “unlikely to happen.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • After trading for Norman Powell at last week’s trade deadline, Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey told Jason Quick of The Athletic that the team had to “shake things up” since “things were starting to look stale.” According to Quick, Portland – with two open roster spots after the trade – will likely peruse the buyout market in search of another wing or guard who could play back-of-the-rotation minutes.
  • Having completed the 12-game suspension he received following his February legal sentencing, Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley said he thinks he’s in a better place. “I feel like my life is where it needs to be,” Beasley said, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. “I got a chance to work on myself on and off the court. I learned from my mistakes, and I’m ready to move on for it.”
  • After making his Nuggets debut in a blowout win over Atlanta on Sunday, Aaron Gordon liked what he saw, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details. “I see no limits for this team,” Denver’s newest forward said. “It looks like we have all the pieces that we need. We have the depth. It’s like we are covered in a lot of different spots offensively, defensively. As long as we are all working together, there’s no stopping us.”

Southeast Notes: Heat, Graham, Wizards, Smith

While the Heat are still willing to make an upgrade, their recent surge allows them to be more selective as the trade deadline approaches, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Their $7.5MM trade exception will expire next Monday and the most likely candidates for that slot are Kings power forward Nemanja Bjelica ($7.2MM) and Thunder big man Mike Muscala ($2.3MM). Miami is unlikely to give away a key young piece to acquire Rockets guard Victor Oladipo, Jackson adds.

We have more on the Southeast Division:

  • Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham will enter restricted free agency this summer (provided the team extends a qualifying offer) and some teams believe he’s available because the franchise will be hesitant to pay up for his second contract, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. Graham’s perceived availability is tied to the fact that starter Terry Rozier is having a strong season and is signed through next season, while LaMelo Ball is the likely Rookie of the Year.
  • The Wizards probably won’t make any major moves before the trade deadline but they’ll be mindful of improving their defense if they complete any transaction, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. They are reluctant to add a shooter who is a subpar defender. They also have limited expendable resources and are close to the luxury tax line.
  • There’s no update yet on Ish Smith‘s injured right quad, Hughes tweets. Wizards coach Scott Brooks hopes to know more in the next 10-14 days. The veteran backup point guard, who has an expiring $6MM contract, was expected to miss six to eight weeks — it has been almost four so far.

Northwest Notes: Muscala, MPJ, Lillard, Blazers, Wolves

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.

Northwest Notes: McDaniels, Miller, Hampton, Muscala

20-year-old rookie Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels is turning heads with his play as he continues to carve out more playing time, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“I think he’s way better than people are realizing,” Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell raved. “He knows the game better than people expect. He makes these exciting plays out of nowhere.”

McDaniels was selected by the Wolves with the No. 28 pick out of Washington in the 2020 draft. He is averaging 17.4 MPG in 17 games. McDaniels played nearly 24 minutes in last night’s 120-118 loss to the Thunder, scoring 8 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the floor.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Veteran Thunder forward Darius Miller is relishing his time back on a basketball court after missing all of the 2019/20 season due to a ruptured Achilles, as Joe Mussato of the Oklahoman details. “I was trying to figure out how to walk again last year around this part of the season,” Miller said, “so I’m just happy to be able to get out here and compete and play basketball again.” The 30-year-old got injured in a three-on-three game in August 2019 while with the Pelicans. He has played in six games for the Thunder. Miller scored a season-high nine points on three made three-pointers in a 106-103 Friday loss to the Timberwolves.
  • Nuggets rookie point guard R.J. Hampton has shown enough flashes to potentially convince the club he deserves more playing time, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “He’s proven he’s trustworthy,” head coach Mike Malone said after Hampton played a career-high 27 minutes last night in a 119-114 loss to the Kings. The No. 24 pick in the 2020 draft, who spent his age-18 season with the New Zealand Breakers, scored a career-high 7 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
  • Veteran Thunder center Mike Muscala has entered the league’s concussion protocol after suffering a concussion during the club’s 120-118 defeat of the Timberwolves last night, per Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman (Twitter link).

Mike Muscala Exercises Player Option

Thunder center Mike Muscala has exercised his $2,283,034 player option for next season, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Oklahoma City signed Muscala last summer to a two-year, $4.31MM deal that included the option for the second season. The 29-year-old appeared in 47 games in his first year with the Thunder, averaging 4.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in about 12 minutes per night.

Muscala has been in the NBA since signing with the Hawks in 2013. He has also played for the Sixers and Lakers.