Since he was a teenager, hype has surrounded Shabazz Muhammad. He was a superstar in high school, then a disappointment at UCLA, now he’s simply not playing in Minnesota. After sliding down draft boards in light of controversies about his age and attitude, the Minnesota Timberwolves seemed to score a good deal on draft day. They received Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng for Trey Burke, a point guard who has yet to play. While the Timberwolves have been slowly integrating Dieng into the rotation, Muhammad has yet to play outside of garbage time, and even then he hasn’t impressed. He has sat out the Timberwolves’ last two games with an ankle injury, but even before then, his frustration was evident.
For a team having major issues with depth, it’s surprising how slow Muhammad is being brought into the rotation. Fellow rookie small forward Robbie Hummel, who the Wolves selected in the second round in 2012, has been getting good minutes lately even starting against the Cleveland Cavaliers last week. That Cleveland game ended up being a blowout, and Muhammad played 10 minutes in the second half. In those 10 minutes, Muhammad shot four times and missed every time. He seemed to be forcing the issue, impatient with his slow start and anxious to start his NBA career in earnest.
It’s unclear if Muhammad is in Coach Rick Adelman’s doghouse for some reason or if Adelman simply thinks Muhammad’s fellow rookies are more ready to contribute to the team. It seems like Muhammad would have more to offer off the bench than Hummel and Dieng, who both project as future role players, but Adelman hasn’t seen it that way. Among this year’s first round picks who have played so far, only the Chicago Bulls’ Tony Snell has played fewer minutes. Among all rookies, Shabazz ranks 42nd in minutes played this year. This is certainly not the start to his career that Muhammad imagined.
The Timberwolves can certainly use some instant offense off the bench, so Muhammad should get the opportunity to play more soon if he continues to be patient and play well in his limited chances. With Chase Budinger’s return lurking, though, Muhammad has to hope he gets playing time sooner rather than later, as the wing position will soon get a bit more crowded.