With two years left on his rookie deal, it’s time for the Timberwolves to figure out Shabazz Muhammad’s place with the team.
After three years in the NBA, Shabazz Muhammad has shown that he has the talent to succeed.
There have been high-flying dunks and explosive 30-point games. Between inconsistent playing time and erratic on court production, however, the UCLA product has left a lot to be desired. As the Wolves head into the 2016-17 season, it’s time to find out what Shabazz is capable of as a player.
Throughout the 2015-16 season Muhammad split time between shooting guard and small forward. In the previous season, he spent 80 percent of his time on the floor at shooting guard. From a statistical perspective, this is where the conundrum arises.
Shabazz’s second year in the league seems to be his most productive to date. In 38 appearances and 13 starts the former Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year put up 13.5 points per game on 48.9 percent field goal shooting including 39.2 percent from deep. But going a little deeper into the statistics is where his real promise shows.
From November 30, 2014 to January 9, 2015, Muhammad appeared in 21 games. Eleven of these games were starts. During this stretch of games, Muhammad logged 29 minutes and averaged 17.4 points per contest. He did this on 49.3 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc, also grabbing 4.9 rebounds per game.
Shabazz only played three games the rest of the season due to DNP’s and injury.
Muhammad’s 2015-16 season continued to show promise but in a different manner. Over the course of the 82 game season Shabazz appeared in every single game but his averages dropped. He averaged 10.5 points per game on 46.5 percent field goal shooting and a very poor 28.9 percent from deep.
Shabazz did have a nice five-game streak at the end of the year where he averaged 21 points on 59.4 percent shooting, including a 35-point outburst against the Warriors. Outside of playing in every single game during this past season, the campaign was a statistical regression for him.
Based purely on statistics, its easy to see that Shabazz is a more productive player at shooting guard. But, part of the reason Muhammad regressed last year was due to the fact that the Wolves have multiple ball-dominant players.
Both Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine saw an increased workload last year. Throw in rookie Karl Anthony-Towns and its easy to see why Muhammad’s numbers dropped. All three of those players will continue to dominate the ball and get shots. This doesn’t mean that Shabazz has to be phased out of the offense.
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I believe that Muhammad as the Timberwolves sixth-man is the best option for the offense. If Coach Thibodeau can convince Muhammad to play smart and to stay focused while he is on the floor I believe that Muhammad can win the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Now I can see how some people may believe that this is a huge oversell of Shabazz’s ability and of his current situation. But let’s take a look at the last five Sixth Man winners.
All of these players had a minimal impact on the game outside of scoring. They were responsible to simply put the ball in the basket. Four of the last five winners were extremely inefficient shooters with James Harden being the exception.
To ask Shabazz to score 15-18 points a game on 45-plus percent shooting is not a tall task. As pointed out earlier he is already a very capable scorer. Muhammad has also demonstrated that he can shoot well above 45 percent over the duration of a season.
Through good coaching, consistent minutes and smart basketball, Shabazz can be a very solid contributor to this team. I believe everything is in place for him to take the next step this upcoming season.