My typical order of operations for running this blog is to write first, read later. During the season that means I watch the game, think about a post theme on my fifteen-minute walk home, and then immediately start banging on the keys. I do this for two main reasons that are equally important to me: First, I don’t have a lot of time during the work week to spend on the blog, so I need to be as efficient as possible. Writing while thoughts are fresh and I’ve yet to unwind from the game is the least wasteful of time. Second, it’s the best way for this blog to provide a unique perspective. If I’ve already read other takes, I’ll be more accurate but less original. So with those considerations in mind, I bang out a post as best I can, press “publish” and then read the other fine Timberwolves websites and blogs, usually discovering mistakes I made but also setting my previous thoughts in a fuller context.
I didn’t do that with last night’s draft. That’s partly because, after the Muhammad and Dieng picks, I strolled down the street to my favorite bar for a some post-draft decompression. By the time I got home it was too late to start writing. But I also wanted to read other takes first because, well… THE WOLVES DRAFTED SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD!!! Unbelievable. Pat and I have written a few different ‘Bazz-related posts, and I kind of sort of thought they were at least a little bit in jest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from a Shabazz Hater; just didn’t seem possible that this team, coached by this coach, at this juncture, would opt for such a polarizing prospect.
Man, Canis Hoopus HAAAAAAAAATES Shabazz. The numerical projection models question whether the recent McDonald’s All-American and first-team All Pac-12 performer should’ve been drafted at all. When you consider that well-respected scout Jonathan Givony persisted to the end with ‘Bazz as a Top-11 talent, the divide was too interesting. I had to read the reactions first, and post second.
At Canis, Eric in Madison didn’t pull any punches. I had to start there not for analytics schadenfreude (we’re all on the same side, after all) but because I knew the criticism would be scathing and, frankly, I was just intrigued by what was going to surface in the morning.
EiM didn’t disappoint:
Not only is McCollum clearly a better player by any measure, but there were any number of more appealing choices. Muhammad is like a lottery ticket. The chance of a payoff is incredibly slim; you are essentially relying on high school hype from when he was a year older then everyone thought, Never mind the age thing, the bad body language, or anything else; he was not a good player at UCLA…
Despite our misgivings about Flip, and especially the way he was hired, we can be forgiven for engaging in some modicum of hope after the reign of Kahn. That hope, for me at least, was dashed last night in a draft where it looked like they could not mess it up, but still found a way.
Yikes! Tell us how you really feel, Eric.
Highlighting the extreme potential for Shabazz Disagreement is Zach Harper’s upbeat look at the newest T-Wolf, which includes a detailed look at the ways ‘Bazz scores, and why he might just fit in with Ricky Rubio and company:
There is so much of Shabazz Muhammad that fits into what the Wolves want to do in Rick Adelman’s system. Spot-up shooting. Moving without the ball. Running it down the opponents’ throats. And he hits the glass as well as any small forward in his draft class. He also seems to have an attitude, which can be both good and bad. But I love the way he approaches end of games. It can be selfish, but it’s assassinous.
Benjamin Polk followed up Harper with a shorter piece that nicely puts all of this uncertainty in proper perspective.
Last but definitely not least, Britt Robson gave a measured reaction with a perceptive nugget about what Drafting Shabazz might mean in the bigger Timberwolves picture:
In the grand scheme of things, what should most concern Wolves fans about the drafting of Muhammad on Thursday is that he seems the antithesis of a Rick Adelman player: He hasn’t demonstrated an ability to handle the ball, survey the court for open teammates, get himself open by moving without the ball, and committing to both individual and team defense.
Back in March when Saunders was first rumored to be in the running to replace Kahn, I wrote a column against the idea, on the grounds that as a successful former coach, Saunders would have forceful and possibly competent ideas about how to improve the team that nevertheless would disrupt the near-autonomy Adelman enjoyed over personnel decisions. Losing Adelman would be a much bigger blow to this franchise than screwing up the ninth, or 14th, overall pick in the draft. And doing both would get the nascent tenure of Flip Saunders as Wolves POBO off to a truly dreadful start.
I’ll be honest: When Stern announced Shabazz at 14, I laughed out loud. I LOL’d, as Flip Saunders might say, or at least tweet. I laughed almost uncontrollably because I knew we were setting foot on a years-long adventure of following such a famously unpopular draft prospect; one with a history of national accolades; one with a history of embarrassing scandals; one whose father is likely wearing an ankle bracelet not unlike the one prescribed for Jake Shuttlesworth’s “arthritic condition”; one that scores; one that doesn’t pass; one named SHABAZZ.
Trying to be objective, I think I would’ve preferred to see them sit tight at 9 and draft C.J. McCollum. Basically, the stats scare me enough to wonder if ‘Bazz will have a Derrick Williams-like Wolves tenure as a scorer that can’t really score. That will not be cool.
But at the same time, it’s close between those two (C.J. & Bazz) in terms of which would be the best backcourt player between Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. With what we know about both McCollum and Muhammad, it’s not crazy to think ‘Bazz is the better fit. The Wolves have had such a frustrating offensive cycle of pass, head-fake, dribble-dribble, pass, repeat. The perfect remedy would be a pure shotmaker; preferably a player with cutting AND shooting ability. That might be Chase Budinger, but: a) Chase is an unrestricted free agent; and b) It can’t just be one guy. So no, it’s not crazy to think that, on an objective basis, the Wolves picked the better of two options.
It’s the subjective though where this pick wins out. NBA seasons are long. The Wolves play the same teams over and over again, and — in recent years, anyway — without any hope of a title shot. Sometimes it’s the subplots, personalities, and eccentricities that make each step enjoyable. We now have a UCLA Bruin named Shabazz Muhammad that was the national high school player of the year while hiding his real, older age. He once blogged for SLAM magazine as a prep star. No matter if Shabazz becomes James Harden, Austin Rivers, or something well in between, I promise that he won’t bore us.
So with that in mind, after Stern announced Shabazz-to-Sota, I had to laugh. Next year, if he’s jacking up bad shots and relegated to the end of the bench, maybe I’ll cry. I’m already excited to find out.