Muhammad Embraces Move To Timberwolves
Muhammad Embraces Move To Timberwolves
One thing Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders noted since Shabazz Muhammad came through Minnesota for a Draft workout on June 16 is the UCLA wing is a “gym rat.” It’s a term he used freely and endearingly.
And after the Wolves made a Draft night deal, sending the Draft rights to No. 9 pick Trey Burke to Utah in return for Muhammad at No. 14 and Gorgui Dieng at No. 21, Saunders brought that gym rat to Minnesota. It’s a move, and a term, that Muhammad welcomed with open arms.
“It means a lot,” Muhammad said. “That’s what I really want here today, is being a gym rat. Like I said, I’m going to be in the gym as much as I can be in Minnesota. It’s going to be a good environment for me, and if I can do that I can see myself as a pretty good player.”
In what turned out to be an active, unpredictable first round, the Wolves pulled off a Draft night trade that translated into moving and not only getting a scorer in Muhammad but also a rim-protector in Dieng—who is a shot-blocker that helped Louisville win the national title this April. The Wolves then shipped the 26th pick—Andre Roberson—along with guard Malcolm Lee to Golden State for a 2014 second round pick and cash considerations.
Muhammad was the centerpiece of those moves. At UCLA, Muhammad averaged 17.9 points per game, connected on 37.7 percent of his 3-point shots and got to the free-throw line at an impressive rate. At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Muhammad gives the Wolves not only the scoring touch from the outside they sought but also a player who can get to the hoop. His athleticism and size not only ensures he can attack the rim, but he also can back down smaller defenders and maneuver his way to the hoop.
And with that gym rat philosophy, Saunders saw a competitive fire and upside in Muhammad.
“His greatest strength is that he’s competitive,” Saunders said.
“We want guys that want to make plays. I want a guy who wants to take the shot rather than someone who is running away from it.”
Muhammad helped UCLA to a 25-10 record in his lone season in the Pac-12. He led the team in scoring, earned second team All-America honors from the Sporting News. He scored in double figures in 31 of his 32 games and at least 20 points in 14 games. The Bruins were 12-2 in those contests.
In Minnesota, Muhammad will bring that competitive edge and pair it next to cornerstone pieces like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, both of whom Muhammad has spoken highly of since coming in for his workout in June. He said he’s excited to play with Rubio and can learn a lot from him—particularly his passing—and he’s become familiar with Love, another former UCLA player, during workouts in Los Angeles.
He said Love is “his guy,” and he’s excited to play with him because he has a deep knowledge for the game. And when he was working out for the Wolves, Muhammad said he had a chance to talk with coach Rick Adelman about the type of ball-movement system the team runs and said he thinks it will be a good fit for him.
“I like this style of play a lot,” Muhammad said. “I was talking to coach Adelman when I was working out with them. I think that fits me a lot, and I think I will do really well there.”
"I want to prove that I’m the best player to come out of this Draft, so I’m going to have a chip on my shoulder in the gym," he said. "And I think with the talent I have and the athletic ability, I can really help our team out.
His first round rookie teammate, Dieng, was selected to the All-Big East First Team and named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2012-13. He helped the Cardinals to the national title, and along the way he accumulated roughly 3.2 blocks per 40 minutes and was an efficient offensive option at the rim.
Dieng stands 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, and his experience and physical tools make him ready to be a rotation guy in the Wolves’ front court immediately.
He averaged 9.8 points and shot 53.4 percent from the field last season.
"I think he's more ready to play than most of those guys because he's skilled in his passing ability. He has an NBA skill and that skill is that he can guard,” Saunders said. “Coach (Rick) Pitino said he's one of the best players he had, and here s a guy who's only played ball for five or six years so he can improve, but the one thing he has is an NBA skill and he's aggressive, he knows how to defend pick and rolls, he knows how to defend inside. I believe both these guys have the ability to play some for us."
Dieng was humbled by the selection, saying a lot of people wish they were in his shoes as he was drafted into an NBA franchise. The Wolves, liking his ability to protect the rim and alter shots, are looking forward to having his skill set defensively added to the team's roster.
"If somebody, like, knows my game, I'm very competitive," Dieng said. "I just want me to do, that's how Coach (Pitino) taught me how to play the game. Listen to your coach and try to please him. I think if I go to Minnesota, I can learn—they have veterans up there. I can learn from them. Some day I will become a great basketball player."
Wolves take Brown, Dubljevic with 2nd round picks
The Wolves then completed tonight’s NBA Draft by selecting N.C. State guard Lorenzo Brown (52nd pick) and Bojan Dubljevic (59th pick) in the second round.
Brown, 22, started 95 of 101 games during his collegiate career at N.C. State, finishing as one of only three players in school history with over 500 career assists (589). As a junior this past season, Brown averaged 12.4 points and an ACC-best 7.2 assists per game, the highest single-season assist average by a Wolfpack player since 1990-91. He ranked second in the ACC in steals (2.0), being named to the All-ACC Second Team by both the media and coaches. Brown finished up his three-year collegiate career averaging 11.6 points and 5.8 assists per game.
Brown’s a player who did come through Minnesota during the Draft workouts, and Saunders said he feels Brown has first-round talent but slipped late in the year and never quite recovered his draft status.
“He was by far a very valued pick,” Saunder said. “What I like about him is he’s 6-foot-5, and he’s very young and can progress.”
Dubljevic, 21, spent this past season playing with Spanish club Valencia Basket, averaging 12.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 19.8 minutes per game. A 6-9 forward, Dubljevic shot .533 from the floor, including .474 from three-point range. He appeared in 16 Eurocup games with Valencia, averaging 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game. This season was his first in the ACB, the top league in Spain. Previously, Dubljevic spent two seasons with Buducnost in the Adriatic League, averaging 6.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while shooting .389 from three-point range.
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