After merely 33 games played, the Minnesota Timberwolves have decided to send rookie forward Shabazz Muhammad to the D-League. Muhammad, originally drafted by the Utah Jazz with the 14th overall pick and later traded to Minnesota, has struggled tremendously this season, averaging only 1.1 points per game in the few minutes presented to him. Although this seems like a drastic move, the Minnesota front office and coaching staff believe that the meaningful minutes and experience that Muhammad will gain in the D-League will better prepare the young talent for the future.
The young and talented small forward has not gotten his NBA career off the way he and many others had imagined. Muhammad, who averaged 17.9 points per game as a freshman at UCLA, has only participated in 11 of the Timberwolves 33 games this season, where he has averaged only 3.8 minutes of playing time. Additionally, Muhammad has averaged a disappointing 1.1 points per game off the bench for the Timberwolves. In hindsight, it seems as though the Timberwolves made a huge mistake on draft day by trading their original selection of Trey Burke to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Muhammad.
Burke has put all questions regarding his size, style of play, and potential to rest by having a notable rookie season. Burke has averaged 13.3 points and 5.2 assists per game this season, giving fans reason to be excited about the future. After comparing the two rookie’s stat lines, it is obvious that the Timberwolves should have held on to the productive point guard. Burke would have been a reliable 6th man who could have contributed mightily off the bench for the young and aspiring team. Minnesota would have also been able to place current 6th man J.J. Barea on the trading block in an attempt to acquire more youthful talent. Having Burke backing Ricky Rubio up at the point guard position and potentially trading Barea would have been a dream position for the Timberwolves to find themselves in.
All is not lost for the former UCLA Bruin, however. The NBA’s D-League offers players with a high level of potential to hone their skill sets by being given the opportunity to play far more minutes than they would with their former NBA team. While in the D-League, Muhammad needs to focus on improving his court vision, off the ball move set, and his overall basketball intelligence. Standing at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Muhammad possesses the physical and athletic make-up to become a solid NBA small forward in the future.
Although the absence of Muhammad will most likely not affect the Timberwolves immediately, it is imperative to keep an eye on the young forward as he progresses. The Minnesota Timberwolves look ahead to Evan Turner and the Philadelphia 76ers in what should be a very exciting mach-up between two playoff hungry teams.