Opening night for many NBA teams included their first-round draft picks logging their first NBA minutes. Michael Carter Williams had a coming out party, Anthony Bennett and Ben McLemore struggled, and Victor Oladipo had issues but still contributed. Shabazz Muhammad never left the Minnesota Timberwolves’ bench. The Timberwolves’ other rookies, Gorgui Dieng and Robbie Hummel, didn’t play either, but Muhammad was the biggest prospect, had the most hype, and has the most potential. Coach Rick Adelman sent the message that his rookies, including Muhammad, are not ready to contribute yet, and they won’t see the floor until they are.
Despite being relatively shallow at the wing positions and playing in an overtime matchup where three players saw more than 40 minutes, Muhammad has yet to play an NBA minute. It’s not entirely unusual to use rookies sparingly, but Muhammad was a lottery pick and was expected to make an impact right away. While his preseason and summer league play was not all that impressive, Muhammad didn’t ever screw anything up, keeping his turnovers to a minimum and refraining from shooting when his shot wasn’t falling. It is clear, though, that coach Adelman and the Timberwolves want more from Muhammad than just not screwing things up.
Muhammad’s NBA debut will come soon, as the Wolves don’t have many options at small forward. However, staying on the court will be another issue. Once Chase Budinger is healthy, Muhammad will fall to third on the small forward depth chart, maybe even fourth if Derrick Williams is actually able to play the three this season or if Hummel is able to prove himself first. Muhammad will need to play well in Budinger’s absence if he wants a spot in the rotation.
The Timberwolves need Muhammad to contribute this year, and he should be able to. Coach Adelman introducing him to the lineup slowly may help with Muhammad’s ego and attitude issues. His slow start will also ensure that Muhammad will be ready for NBA play before being trusted with heavy minutes and heavy responsibilities. Still, expect Muhammad’s first appearance to come soon.