As the Minnesota Timberwolves handed the Brooklyn Nets 111-81, rookie swingman Shabazz Muhammad watched the majority of that 30 point loss from the bench, suffering through a sprained ankle. It was an unfortunate night for the young player, who the Wolves drafted 14th overall in last June’s NBA Draft. He was a heavily hyped prospect out of high school, who went to UCLA where he had a nightmare of all nightmares for a freshmen, most of his weaknesses were exposed in what was a fairly unimpressive rookie season. He was seen as a guy who had one ability, the ability to score, which he couldn’t even do that very efficiently. On the same night, Utah Jazz rookie Trey Burke scored five points, with three assists and five rebounds in relief duty. In 20 minutes, Burke has already eclipsed Shabazz’s season totals in points, rebound and assists.
My preference at pick No. 9 was not even Burke, CJ McCollum out of Leigh was. After Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was taken one pick in front of the Wolves at No. 8, McCollum was the obvious pick. He is a combo guard that could play offensively at either position, and has the ball handling ability to play point and the size and scoring instincts to play the two guard.
Shabazz could very well prove me wrong, but in limited minutes, he has looked absolutely dreadful. Derrick Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, hasn’t looked much better himself. The obvious issues with drafting poorly are present, and we could have had better players who would be helping us win right now. But even at that, let’s look at the hidden cost of just drafting Shabazz.
Let’s say we stuck with Burke or went with McCollum, we could be looking at a situation where we could unload the contracts of Williams, JJ Barea and Alexey Shved, and clear up $13 million, because the back-up point guard spot wouldn’t be as big of a concern going forward; that is a lot of money to spend on complimentary pieces for a better bench. But because we have Shabazz, who hasn’t come close to earning Rick Adelman’s trust yet, we desperately need Barea.
Bad drafting is a killer on a number of levels, and the Wolves have felt this. Shabazz was a clear miss, and it seemed like Flip Saunders knew this an hour after it happened. Hopefully Shabazz can develop into a rotation player that can help, but the Wolves missed on a few players who are already contributing.