Shabazz Muhammad | 2013-14 Profile

Wolves guard/forward Shabazz Muhammad showed patience and growth during his rookie season.
David Sherman & Jordan Johnson/NBAE/Getty Images
by Mark Remme
Web Editor
@markremme

Editor’s Note: Throughout the next month, Timberwolves.com will take a look back at the Wolves’ 2013-14 roster individually and look ahead to the upcoming offseason and 2014-15 campaign. Part I looks at forward/guard Shabazz Muhammad’s rookie year.

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Shabazz Muhammad

SG/SF | 6-foot-6, 225 pounds

2013-14 season: 37 GP, 7.8 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 46.0 FG%

Shabazz Muhammad did his lone NBA Draft workout in the Twin Cities on a sunny Sunday afternoon last June. He worked out for President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders and a collection of the Wolves’ coaching staff, and after he was done he talked about how much he enjoyed the staff and that he thought Minnesota would be a good fit for him.

And after Minnesota swapped their ninth pick for Nos. 14 and 21 on Draft night, the Wolves sent Trey Burke to Utah for Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng—giving Muhammad a chance to start his career with the Timberwolves.

“It was a really good situation for me,” Muhammad said on Draft night. “And I’m just happy to have the opportunity.”

Opportunities on the court didn’t come early on. He played fewer than 5 minutes per game through his first three months in the league. Many of those nights he didn’t get into the game. But throughout the process, Muhammad stayed focused and lived up to his reputation in college as being a “gym rat.”

Once he got his chance, he made the most of it.

Muhammad’s minutes increased to about 10 minutes per game over his final 2 ½ months and provided an offensive spark while on the floor. He showed he could get his left-handed baseline floater to go with great effectiveness. In fact, he was 19-of-35 from the 8-16 feet on the left baseline this season. He showed he can post-up as a wing player and use his size to back down defenders, and he also can throw down when given the opportunity in space.

But one of the things Muhammad proved both in practice and in games this year was he’s willing to help impact the game when he’s not scoring. That was the biggest question mark about him coming out of college—with the Bruins, he was a scorer. Plain and simple. But with the Wolves, he was willing to move the ball within the offense and not look for his shot too early. He made his biggest splash on the offensive glass. Muhammad made it known early in Training Camp that he would attack the boards on the offensive end, and he continued that when he got playing time. Of his 53 total rebounds this year, 24 of them came on the offensive end. That’s a pretty high percentage of his overall rebounding, and it’s something coach Rick Adelman praised him for early on and throughout the season.

The key to Muhammad’s rookie year is not getting tied up in the numbers. It’s looking at how he adjusted to the situation. Muhammad was one of the nation’s top high school recruits, and he was the main name on UCLA’s squad in his lone season with the Bruins. He adjusted to the situation, dedicated himself to getting better each day and put in the time to make it happen.

“Sometimes young people don’t take that to heart when they’re not playing,” Adelman said. “We told him all along that it’s a long season here, and he had an opportunity with injuries and he really produced.”

Shabazz Muhammad’s Top Games

1. Feb. 25 at Suns: Muhammad’s top game came in Phoenix in perhaps one of the most unexpected performances of the season. At the time, Muhammad was not playing significant minutes and was coming off a 1-of-8 shooting effort against the Blazers in the Wolves’ previous game. But with Kevin Martin injured, it opened up an opportunity for Muhammad to gain some playing time. He took advantage. In a game featuring two teams desperately trying to secure a spot in the playoffs, the Wolves beat Phoenix 110-101 on the road in dramatic fashion. They came from behind in the fourth, and Muhammad was the catalyst. He scored 10 of his 20 points in the final frame, and finished 8-of-13 from the field. He was aggressive and decisive, he got to the free-throw line and he had six rebounds.

Most importantly, grabbed an offensive rebound with 1:38 remaining and found a cutting Corey Brewer for two, extending the Wolves’ lead to five. It was the play of the game as it iced the Wolves’ win. “I don’t know if it’s practice or what but I know Corey’s going to cut every time,” Muhammad said. “I tried to tip it out every time. I tried to tip it out at first and then I got the rebound and grabbed it and held it. I was going to give it to Ricky but I saw Brew cutting so I hit him. I think that was really a momentum-changer for us and helped us get a comfortable lead.”

2. March 31 vs. Clippers: The Wolves lost this game, but Muhammad provided an offensive spark that the team really needed earlier on and did not receive. The Clippers led by as many as 24 at one point, punctuated by a 34-15 advantage in the third quarter. But in the fourth, Muhammad again made the most of his opportunity. He hadn’t seen the floor prior to the fourth, but he played all 12 minutes in the final frame and scored 11 points off the bench. He shot 5-of-6 from the field and gave the Wolves a much-needed offensive spark early on in the quarter. Muhammad’s well-known lefty baseline floater made an appearance, as did his ability to hit he turnaround jumper and drive to the basket. Unfortunately, Muhammad suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee two games later, effectively ending his season.

3. March 5 vs. Knicks: In another game in which the Wolves came out flat offensively, Muhammad put together a pretty efficient stretch of play when he did see the floor. Minnesota was coming off a 4-1 West Coast road trip and was back in the Western Conference playoff conversation as they began a four-game homestand. But against New York, the Wolves fell behind by 17 and never led in a 118-106 loss. Yet Muhammad had a strong effort. He shot 5-of-5 in just over 14 minutes of play while also grabbing three boards.

Top Offseason Objectives

The Wolves’ major hope for Muhammad is that once he gets healthy he will be able to drop between 10 and 15 pounds heading into next season. Muhammad played the 2013-14 season at a listed 222 pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame. He’s an athletic player with a talented offensive arsenal that includes power and touch. If he’s able to drop his weight down, the Wolves expect him to be able to improve his speed and agility heading into next year. Muhammad proved he can be an offensive presence in the NBA, and if he’s able to add that explosive element to his came and become a disciplined defender, the Wolves could have themselves an important wing player for years to come.

They Said It…

“It’s the coaching staff. They’re always supporting me, and like I said just trying to come in early, leave late, just trying to work my butt off. And coach Adelman is always like, ‘You’re going to get your chance, your opportunity.’ It came, and I thought I responded pretty well.” — Shabazz Muhammad 

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