WASHINGTON -- As the Washington Wizards' apparent need for a Stretch 4 comes to a head, more traditional big men tend to be pushed wayside when options for this month's draft are discussed. If the Wizards add a big man, he better improve their spacing seems to be the reasoning here.
Decision-making in the NBA typically doesn't fall along those rigid lines, though. When it comes to the draft, roster needs only come into consideration as one of a multitude of factors whose importance fluctuates based on the proximity of title contention. The further away championships are, the less important needs become.
For a team like the Wizards that's making steady progress, but still has miles to go before catching up with the league's elite, it's all about finding the right fits. Coming off a steady workout performance Friday at the Verizon Center, Bucknell star Mike Muscala may qualify as that kind of guy for Washington.
From all indications, a prototypical big man isn't especially high up on Washington's draft needs. With veterans like Emeka Okafor, Nene, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin already in place, bigger holes on the roster exist: back-up point guard, small forward, that elusive Stretch 4 spot.
However, Muscala brings some legitimate NBA characteristics to the table, including size, rebounding and a good head on his shoulders. While he may not be precisely what Washington craves -- someone who can help space the floor without giving up too much on the boards or defense -- he's not that far off.
Asked how he might contribute to the Wizards as a rookie, Muscala responded like a prospect who's aware of what Washington's missing:
"Someone who can definitely space the floor, shoot the ball well, who can play inside and out," he said. "I'm going to be a good rebounder, good work ethic and someone who is going to be a great teammate."
At Bucknell, Muscala averaged 18.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per game during his senior season. Flashing an improved post game, he depended less on mid-range jumpers -- the improvement allowed him to better his efficiency as a senior even while taking on a larger role.
While the Wizards need guys who can play away from the basket to better pressure defenses, Muscala could be ideal as someone capable of providing scoring punch in a number of ways. If he can prove capable of consistently knocking down 15-footers, his rebounding and post skills could make him an excellent big off the bench.
Defense remains a question mark for Muscala, but he doesn't think he's far from making an impact on that end.
"For me, I'm a really good team defender because I talk well, I think that's one of the things my coaches have really stressed, so I think that's something I could bring right away," he said.
He did admit he, "needs to get stronger to be better defensively," against the NBA's best athletes, but that's obvious just from watching him play.
Whether Muscala will even be available when the Wizards first second-round selection -- No. 38 overall -- comes up is questionable, as he noted teams have shown increased interest in him leading up to the draft. Still, heading to Washington would likely be a thrill for the 22-year-old.
Having played in this city a number of times against American University (my school, go Eagles! *sigh*), he showed some genuine affection for the nation's capital:
"I actually love the area. I got a chance to walk around yesterday, went to the Natural History Museum, saw the White House -- it was my first time. We were going to go to a Nationals game, but it rained. My girlfriend is from the area, so she showed me around and it was a great time. I love the area," he said.
Bad weather withstanding, it's not hard to see why Muscala and D.C. might end up being a nice fit. We'll just have to wait and see if the Wizards brass agrees.
Other notes and quotes after the jump:
- Muscala was one of six players to workout for Wizards management and coaches on Friday. The other five were C.J. Aiken of St. Joseph's, Junior Cadougan of Marquette, Ella Ellis of Army, Lamont Jones of Iona and A.J. Matthews of Farmingdale State. Muscala is the only one projected as an NBA draft pick at this point.
- It's not hard to see why the Wizards brought Ellis in to workout -- the guy loves to shoot three-pointers. For a team that's still working to improve its spacing and better enable the offense, Ellis could be an intriguing undrafted free agent. He took 5.5 three-pointers a game last year for Army and hit 42 percent of them.
- Muscala said the Wizards were the fourth team he's worked out with, while eight other teams are still scheduled. Asked what he's learned from his early experiences, he said, "Just trying to show your intangibles. You know, I think everybody is going to be skilled, is going to be athletic in these workouts. You just have to show you have good mental toughness, that you're composed and you have a good work ethic."
- More from Muscala on D.C.: "I feel like the city is really clean, but it's really big and a lot of people around, so I feel like it's the best of both worlds."
- Working with athletic trainer Ernest Eugene, a former Wizards employee, Cadougan described a pretty positive perception of the franchise. "He'd tell me all the time that they're a great organization, that they respect people. And I could see that when I came here. As soon as I got here I felt comfortable and respected," he said.
- Cadougan says his first workout was with the Milwaukee Bucks, and they told him he needed to improve his shooting. As a senior, he shot 23 percent from beyond the arc and 43 percent overall, but he seemed upbeat about improving his stroke this summer. "My shot feels a lot better, and like I said, in this workout my shot was falling a lot. You know, I just gotta stay in the gym and keep on being consistent in the gym."
- Cadougan on the conference-formerly-known-as-the-Big-East: "The Big East is like a monster conference. You can see that there's a lot of NBA players that come out of the Big East and it prepares you for situations like this."
- Noting his ability to contribute without the basketball, I asked Cadougan how he felt he might fit on the Wizards next to John Wall and Bradley Beal. "I would be a good fit for the Wizards because I could get into the paint, kick it out to shooters, knock down open shots and drop it off to the bigs," he said. The Marquette guard also had some pretty kind words for Wall: "They got a great point guard in John Wall, and I wouldn't care to back up John Wall because he's such a great player and I can learn from him."