Muscala decreased the volume of shots he attempted at the rim this season and saw his already-low rates of free-throw attempts and offensive rebounds drop some more. But Muscala increased his accuracy on shots at the rim to 70 percent (50-for-71), which Cleaning the Glass ranked in the 80th percentile among bigs, and he made 92 percent of his 62 free-throw attempts.
Significantly, Muscala’s assist percentage plummeted from very good for a big man last season to below-average this season. That happened even as his team’s assist percentage was about the same as last season and Muscala’s touches per game increased slightly, according to NBA.com’s tracking data. However, Muscala’s “potential assists” (pass to a teammate who shoots within one dribble) decreased from 2.8 per game last season to 1.6 in 2017-18.
Defensively, the most striking aspect of Muscla’s metrics was the opponent effective field-goal percentage with him on the floor. The Hawks allowed an effective field-goal percentage 2.3 percent less with Muscala on the floor vs. off, according to CTG. Opponents got far fewer attempts at the rim when Muscala was on the floor and shot much worse from the midrange.
My subjective view is that Muscala is a solid team defender, but it’s difficult to dole out individual responsibility on/off court numbers or Synergy Sports tracking data. For example, Muscala’s block percentage is just OK but Synergy Sports gives him good marks as the defender around the basket. And Muscala’s effect on effective-field goal percentage at the rim decreased significantly when he wasn’t paired with Dewayne Dedmon (for 1,498 possessions) or John Collins (for 1,361).
Muscala significantly increased his defensive rebounding rate on field goals this season to 15.3 percent but that still ranks in just 29th percentile among bigs, per CTG. He also increased his steals percentage slightly from last season and decreased his block percentage a bit, ranking in the 61st and 42nd percentile, respectively, according to CTG.
Overall, Muscala’s second season as a rotation player looked much the same as his first: high-efficiency, low-usage offense and defense that, at the least, didn’t hurt the Hawks. That didn’t earn Muscala much interest as a free-agent market last summer, and there could be an even tighter market this year.
Muscala says he wants to stay with the Hawks, which may not mean much when it comes down to business. But I think it’s possible he will opt in for another $5 million next season.