Question 1: How’d Shabazz do tonight?
Answer 1: Bazz was unreal. Had his best game as a pro. 20 points and 6 boards. TOUGH boards. Crunch-time, sky-up-in-a-crowd boards. For shits and giggles, he also had an assist and 2 steals. By far his best game.
Question 2: Yeah, but did he help the team?
Answer 2: Yep. Wolves won at Phoenix, despite Martin and Pek sitting out. Shabazz’s plus/minus was +8 in 24:20 of action.
Question 3: What are Shabazz’s strengths?
Answer 3: Physicality, positioning, and touch around the basket. That spinning lefty hook.
Question 4: What are Shabazz’s weaknesses?
Answer 4: Lateral quickness on defense (he is, weirdly and unexpectedly, a little bit of a 3/4 hybrid) and improvisation when his first, preferred option has been taken away. The game still moves fast to Bazz. The jitters might help his rebounding, but they hurt his scoring efficiency.
Question 5: If Shabazz is so great, why hasn’t Adelman played him all season?
Answer 5: First, he’s not great. He’s a bit of a tweener, which basically just means that he’s probably best coming off the bench.
Second, he probably has struggled to learn and execute NBA defensive schemes. He’s a one-and-done rookie! How could he possibly be ready to help an NBA team win right away? Plus, the Wolves spent a ton of money on Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer. They weren’t eager to bench one of those guys.
Question 6: What’s the one part of Shabazz’s game that should have Wolves fans feeling optimistic about his future?
Answer: 6: His toughness on the interior. The guy is built pretty thick and CREATES contact. He jumps really high off of two feet and brings a skillset that is totally unlike his teammates’. It isn’t always pretty, but when Shabazz is out there with K-Love, they put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses (and on officials) with their physical play in the paint. Maybe it’s a UCLA thing?
Question 7: What’s the one part of Shabazz’s game that should give Wolves fans pause before getting too excited?
Answer 7: His body and (lack of true) position. Is he a two? A three? A small-ball four? I’m not sure. But I know that he’s physical and scores around the basket.
Question 8: Random: What might fans who haven’t been watching not know about Shabazz Muhammad?
Answer 8: He talks really fast in interviews. He’s pretty jittery, much like when he takes the floor. The nervous energy from a young rookie is a little bit endearing and seems consistent with Coach Adelman’s remarks about him working really hard in practice everyday. Shabazz seems a lot more hungry than entitled.
Question 9: Short-term: What’s the best role for Shabazz?
Answer 9: The same as tonight: A high-minutes reserve who plays a lot with Kevin Love. The Wolves are almost definitely not making the playoffs and need to make a priority out of developing rookies. Plus, Shabazz might just help the win more than the alternatives. He certainly did tonight.
Question 10: Long-term: How should we feel about Shabazz?
Answer 10: I’ll punt on this last one. I really don’t know.
But there are two reasons to feel better about Shabazz than we did about Jonny/Wes/Darko/Alexey/etc: He plays really hard and REALLY physical. Shabazz has the body and temperament to mix it up in the paint every single night. As he fine tunes the art of drawing fouls, he’s only going to get more efficient as a scorer. For now, he’s a lot for opponents to handle as a rebounder and hook-shot scorer.
I know this much: He and Gorgui are a close second to Rubio’s jumper on the list of factors that could increase the long-term upside of this team.
It needs better perimeter shooting, which is where Ricky comes in. It needs better rim protection, which is where Gorgui comes in. But it also needs more physicality attacking the basket off the dribble, and it needs more scoring depth so the bench doesn’t play the starters out of winnable games.
And that’s where Shabazz comes in. Here’s hoping tonight’s game wasn’t a fluke, but was a little glimpse of what is yet to come for many more seasons.