From stud to bust and back again, Shabazz Muhammad has had a roller coaster ride of a career in just one-and-a-half short seasons, but what can we expect from him going forward?
After a rookie season that involved stints in the D-League, Muhammad was labeled a bust, but now he has bounced back with a very impressive sophomore season.
Nov 30, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad (15) dunks the ball on Portland Trail Blazers centerRobin Lopez
(42) during the third quarter of the game at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports
Outside of Jimmy Butler, I would go out on a limb and say Muhammad is the most improved player in the league. As a rookie, Muhammad only played 37 games in the NBA, and the rest of the season he spent with the Iowa Energy.
In those 37 games as a pro, he only averaged 3.9 points and 7.8 minutes per contest. This year, he’s already played 37 games and we’re only at the All-Star break. So far, he’s averaging 13.6 points per game while shooting an impressive 48.6 percent from the field.
Per 36 minutes, Muhammad is averaging 21.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. He also has a 19.7 Player Efficiency Rating (PER). To put that number in perspective, a PER of 20 categorizes a player as a borderline All-Star.
In one year, Muhammad has gone from D-Leaguer and bust to a Most Improved Player of the Year candidate and borderline All-Star. It’s unlikely that he’ll continue this rate of improvement, but it is a good sign. Not to mention, he was selected to represent the USA in the Rising Stars game this past All-Star weekend.
And Muhammad’s success this year is no mirage or aberration, this guy was supposed to be this good.
While most kids were learning algebra or making plans for prom, Muhammad was dominating the high school basketball world. After being named the 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Nevada winning MVP of the 2012 McDonald’s All-American game, Rivals.com ranked him first in the country among the 2012 graduating class.
The skill and potential is there, but just how good can this guy get?
Muhammad can score in the post, beyond the arc (37.1 career three point shooting percentage) and he’s proven to be a dangerous put-back scorer, but he does not have elite athleticism. For his position and size (6’5”), Muhammad is only an adequate athlete.
Once jokingly described as a “professional scorer,” by coach Flip Saunders, Muhammad does have a tendency to struggle on defense. Per 100 possessions, the Wolves allow 1.9 points more with Muhammad on the court (according to 82games.com).
In his defense, 1.9 points per possession is not a huge number, and the Wolves are actually 4.1 points better offensively when Muhammad is in the game, so he still has a net rating of +2.1 per 100 possessions.
The thing that is most impressive about Muhammad’s game is his efficient scoring. This is where Muhammad can really contribute, by scoring and doing it at a successful rate.
Courtesy of Vorped.com
Taking a look at his shot chart from the 2014-15 seasons, it is clear that Muhammad takes (and makes) a majority of his shots from inside the paint. If he can continue his efficient shooting, while improving his outside game, Muhammad could become a great scorer.
Realistically, Muhammad’s ceiling is probably being the third option on a playoff team. Hopefully, that team will be the Minnesota Timberwolves.
He isn’t a great athlete, passer, defender, or shooter, but he has found a way to be a solid scoring option. Muhammad is only 21 years old, so there’s still a chance he could continue to improve and become the team’s primary scorer and/or a future All-Star.
Until we find out, let’s just sit back and enjoy watching Muhammad continue to knock down that pretty left-handed hook shot.
All stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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