When Shabazz Muhammad joined the Minnesota Timberwolves, he followed in the footsteps of several other recent, controversial former top prospects Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams. Beasley didn’t flourish in Minnesota and Williams hasn’t yet, but Muhammad has a chance to live up to the hype with the Timberwolves. While the Wolves are set at center, power forward, and point guard for the foreseeable future, their wing positions are far more open.
Before training camp, the Timberwolves were projected to start Kevin Martin at shooting guard and Chase Budinger at small forward. Budinger ended up having surgery on his knee, though, and will be out to start the season. This means Williams and Corey Brewer will battle for the starting spot, but Muhammad is a dark horse candidate if he looks good to start the season.
Martin is an outstanding offensive shooting guards, but at this point, his game is extremely one dimensional. He is a shooter and not much else. Muhammad on the other hand, is a scorer who can get points from anywhere on the court. Muhammad won’t overtake Martin for the starting guard spot, but he may see significant minutes behind him.
The controversy surrounding Muhammad’s personality is mostly overblown. He did have attitude issues at UCLA, but in interviews and on the court, he seems to realize he will need to prove himself to have a career in the NBA. And the incident which got him kicked out of the rookie transition program, having a female guest in his room, seems to be a transgression any young man might make.
Muhammad’s on the court issues are real, though. He didn’t play well in summer league, and his preseason performance thus far hasn’t been stellar. But he’s had a few good games, and it takes time to make the transition from college star to NBA rookie. His reputation for selfish play preceded him and Muhammad hasn’t made a single assist in preseason play, but that was never his game. He has displayed selflessness and hustle in other areas by grabbing rebounds and doing his best to play defense.
Speculation about Muhammad spending time in the D-League if he didn’t shape up was just that — speculation. It is far too early to call Muhammad a bust, but it is also too early to say he’ll have a long and productive career. Either situation is a possibility, and Muhammad will have the opportunity to be a key player this year, as the Wolves need a wing who can penetrate and score. If he can be productive, Muhammad may have found a good home in Minnesota.