This is Part Eight in a thirteen-part series that will examine all players currently on the Wolves’ roster that played for the team last season. We’ll be omitting Kevin Love, because…well, you know why.
As has been noted numerous times before here on DWW, Shabazz Muhammad was not supposed to be drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Cynical Wolves fans, of course, knew that the UCLA product was destined to end up in Minneapolis. Given his overrated and over-hyped status as a college freshman, it only made sense that the Wolves would reach for the once top-high school player in the nation in a misguided search for a “scorer”.
Alas, despite all the “S-Box” and “red-line” talk that leaked out of Target Center in the weeks leading up to the 2013 NBA Draft, Muhammad was indeed the selection after Flip Saunders drafted Trey Burke and traded him to Utah for a pair of picks later in the round.
Apparently, Saunders was hoping that Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk would be there at #14, but Boston nabbed him at #13. This led to an apparent panic, at least on some level, from Saunders and Co.
While the selection of Gorgui Dieng later in the round looks to have been a good pick, Muhammad had a rough rookie season. After appearing in just 20 of the first 56 games of the season, Muhammad dropped 20 points in 24 minutes in Game #57 (21 for Shabazz) in Phoenix.
And he did it by shooting entirely Shabazz Shots — more on that in a minute. But the next night, he was scoreless in 11 minutes in Sacramento, and Muhammad scored in double-figures just twice more over the course of the rest of the season.
What are Shabazz Shots, you ask? Well, it’s nothing too fancy. Really, there’s only one. If you watch many Wolves games last year, you know the one.
It’s the one-handed push-shot from the left baseline. He may post-up and go to the turnaround on the block or along the baseline, or he may face-up and force up a tough runner/floater-like-thing from roughly the same location.
But never on the right side of the floor; no, it’s literally always to the left (his strong) side.
The above shot chart does not show field goal percentage. It represents the percentage of Muhammad’s shots that come from each zone on the floor. Yes, 28.23% of his shots come from short-to-mid-range on the left baseline. And not only that, it’s even more extreme when considering how little he shoots from everywhere else other than underneath the basketball.
Think about this: more than 79% of his shot attempts come from the left baseline or directly at the rim. That’s insane.
Yes, it’s a relatively small sample size, but there’s no doubt that that’s his shot. If you saw any Summer League action, he continued to make that inescapably clear.
And sure, he shot 19 of 35 from that spot, good enough for 54.29%. But he also shot just 46.03% in his 63 attempts at the rim.
So, back to Muhammad’s 20-point performance against the Suns. Check out his heat map from that contest, courtesy of NBAsavant.com:
Yep, he shot the ball thirteen times from what amounts to four different locations. Not exactly a diverse “scorer”, is he? Now, let’s look at FanSided’s fantastic Nylon Calculus’ shot chart for Muhammad’s entire rookie season.
The main redeeming and encouraging thing that Muhammad does well is rebound his position, especially on the offensive glass. Despite standing just 6′ 6″, Muhammad pulled down 8.8% of offensive boards while he was on the court, and 10% of total rebounds.
If he can continue to crash the glass with reckless abandon and shore up his spot-up shooting (he was passable at this in college), he can find a niche as a ninth-man, small-ball power forward-type in the NBA. He will never be the “scorer” that he was miscast in after dominating smaller and younger high school players. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be useful.
Look for Saunders to give Muhammad every opportunity to succeed in preseason and early in the regular season. Inevitably, he’ll be surpassed by superior athletes like Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins, and more productive players like Chase Budinger and even Robbie Hummel.
He’s a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline or next summer, if only because the Wolves have already collected their share of combo forwards and Muhammad is already down a bit on the totem pole.
Muhammad has apparently put in a lot of work this off-season to ensure that he’s in the best possible shape headed into the 2013-14 season. Let’s hope that he has also committed himself to defense and spot-up shooting, and he can certainly find a bit role in the league moving forward.
Make sure to look for another piece on Shabazz Muhammad by the fantastic Cody Gerrells later on this afternoon.