Shabazz Muhammad earned plenty of negative press before this season started. He was outed as being a year older than previously claimed and a minor transgression at the NBA Rookie Transition Program turned into a scandal. Still, many were excited to see the young man who was considered the best high school player in the country just two years ago begin his professional career. Nearly a quarter of the way into the 2013-14 season, Muhammad’s career has yet to begin in earnest. He’s seen the floor and scored a handful of points, but it’s all come during garbage time, and he’s yet to see meaningful minutes.
It’s not unusual for coach Rick Adelman to bring his rookies along slowly, and Muhammad’s fellow rookies Robbie Hummel and Gorgui Dieng have seen limited action too, but both of them have more than twice as much as him. Muhammad did miss some games due to an ankle sprain, but that doesn’t account for the discrepancy in minutes played.
The Wolves are shallow at the wing positions, so it would make sense for Muhammad to play at least a few minutes every game, but he’s still racking up the DNPs. While Adelman and the Wolves want to win now, it would still make sense to develop the young lottery pick, as he could be a valuable scorer off the bench if he gets the opportunity to play and does well. It will be tough for Muhammad to improve without real game experience. A stint in the D-League could make sense, if there’s not a place for him in the Wolves’ rotation right now.
It could just be that Adelman doesn’t like Muhammad for his system. We’ve seen that Adelman isn’t shy about benching talented players who don’t fit his vision for the team. Derrick Williams was barely playing before he was traded to the Sacramento Kings, while Adelman played Hummel and Dante Cunningham ahead of the former No. 2 pick.
Muhammad could also just be bad enough to not deserve a spot in the rotation. We don’t really know, as we haven’t had the opportunity to see him really play this year. It’s too early to call Muhammad a bust, but it’s hard to imagine him having a long or productive NBA future if he doesn’t start playing soon.