PHILADELPHIA >> In their continuing effort to improve their frontcourt defensive versatility, the 76ers Thursday traded for 6-11 forward-center Mike Muscala.
Muscala, a 27-year-old product of Bucknell, played his first five seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, averaging 5.4 points. He arrives in a complicated deal that ultimately will involve four teams, and he will play the frontcourt role that opened when Ersan Ilyasova signed as a free agent with Milwaukee.
For Muscala, the Sixers will lose Justin Anderson to the Hawks and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was among the many ripples from a deal involving presumptive Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony.
With a protected 2022 first-round pick, Anthony was traded from Oklahoma City to Atlanta, which will waive him, making him a free agent. Anthony will sign with Houston. The Thunder received Muscala and 6-1 scoring guard Dennis Schroder. But as part of the deal, the Thunder would send Muscala to the Sixers for Luwawu-Cabarrot, with Anderson heading to the Hawks.
The Sixers were in need of frontcourt help when Nemanja Bjelica shockingly rejected their free-agent offer and appeared headed to Sacramento. Reports were that the Sixers and Bjelica had an agreement.
Muscala is a 37.8 career three-point shooter, virtually even with Ilyasova, who has shot 36.6 percent from distance. Three years younger, Muscala is recognized as better able to switch between forwards and centers at the defensive end. The Sixers’ inability to do that at a championship level was a major reason they were ousted by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Luwawu-Cabarrot was first-round Sixers draft pick in 2016 and made 26 starts in his two seasons. But the 6-6 wing proved to be an inconsistent three-point shooter and faded from Brett Brown’s rotation.
Anderson arrived in the 2017 trade of Nerlens Noel to Dallas and was noted for his frontcourt energy. But he often was injured, missed much of last season with a leg issue, and did not shoot well enough to ideally fit Brown’s system.
Bothered by ankle issues throughout his career, Muscala played 53 games last season, starting seven. He averaged a career-high 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds.