Photo - Nick Laham (Getty Images)

By: Joe Perovich, Productions/Promotions Intern

It was first announced Friday by Flip Saunders on the ‘Bumper To Bumper Show with Dan Barreiro’, but it was finally made official Monday. The 2013 NBA Draft’s #14 pick has returned to the Minnesota Timberwolves from the NBDL’s Iowa Energy.

If there ever was “a guy that hasn’t had to face much adversity on the basketball court”, Shabazz Muhammad is 'Subject 1A'.

The longer it takes for a player to encounter adversity, the longer he will believe that being head-and-shoulders above everybody is, “Business As Usual”. Prolonged adversity is inflated adversity. The more time that passes before a person first experiences the feeling of “being knocked down a peg”, the longer it will take them to eventually overcome it.

For the first time in his life, Shabazz Muhammad is not “the best”.

Nearly every NBA player was their high school’s best player by far, and about 80% were likely the best player on their college team. However, only an extremely small fraction can say scouts projected them to be the next NBA superstar, someone that would be “going toe-to-toe with Bron and the rest of the league heavyweights”

Most NBA players dealt with their adversity away from the public eye, or on a much smaller stage. Shabazz Muhammad has finally faced his – and the relentless national spotlight is beating down upon him.

The scouts that misinterpreted his value are to blame for how we arrived here. As these things go, when a mistake is made, the prospect they analyzed incorrectly becomes the scapegoat. Even worse, the lack of accountability gives those same people a pass to pick up a stone and slander as well.

In September, Adidas signed Shabazz Muhammad to a shoe contract, but the shoes that he actually laces up each night are the ones that are too big to fill; the ones that matter the most.

Could this cup of coffee with the NBA Developmental League be exactly what Shabazz Muhammad needed, or is it a sign that he’s following in the career footsteps of Hasheem Thabeet?

 

His NBA statistics through January 3rd:

11 games. AVG: 3.8 min, 1.1 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 0.0 apg, 25% FG, 33% 3pt shooter.

His D-League statistics with the Iowa Energy from Jan. 3 through Jan. 13:

4 games. AVG: 27.7 min, 24.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.8 apg, 57% FG, 50% 3pt shooter.

Totals will always go up with minutes, but efficiency doesn’t. Shabazz’s shooting efficiency was clearly much better in the NBA’s “minor league”. Is that reason enough to think he’s improving as a shooter with playing time, or is it caused by having confidence playing against inferior players?


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That eye-popping fast break features Marquis Teague on the set-up and Shabazz Muhammad with the slam, but there’s a reason to include it aside from its hugely entertaining qualities. It’s an example of where on the court Shabazz Muhammad was scoring most of his points with the Iowa Engery.

In the D-League, Muhammad made 36 out of the 63 shots he attempted, but 28 of those came from within the area that is 1-3 feet in distance from the rim. He went 28-of-46 (61%) in that zone.

This of course means that he went 8-of-17 from just about everywhere else (3-6 from three, 5-for-11 mid-range).

Shabazz was a much-improved shooter with the Iowa Energy, but the volume and efficiency makes you wonder if this is really an improvement, or if it’s a mirage. Almost 78% of his shots were from 1-to-3 feet, a zone he was a dreadful 1-for-8 in during his NBA minutes.

Hope remains. Nitpicking where on the floor his successes took place won’t matter if a similar trend begins to come into form at the next level. Digging through his shot charts and finding the negative(s) in a 20-point performance when he’s in the D-League is fine, because we have to wonder if it will translate to the level Minnesota drafted him.

If he can score 18-21 points in NBA games at a consistent rate, no one will care if a giant percentage of them come at the rim. Is a wing that can shoot at a good rate preferable? Sure, but six three pointers and nine lay-ups amount to the same thing. If that’s his way of becoming successful, it still gets the job done.

Shabazz Muhammad can undoubtedly benefit from playing time in the NBDL. What benefit is it to him or the Timberwolves if he’s not receiving any minutes, anywhere.

The fallacy about the NBA Developmental League is that when underperforming first-round picks are sent down, most see it as foreshadowing. It’s viewed as a career death sentence in the near future, and an acceptable time to start throwing “bust” declarations around. To me, this train of thought stems from the guys that begin in the D-League and fail to ever reach the NBA. In many cases, the players that were sent down have returned and their expectations were realized.

Success Stories (where D-League stint wasn’t injury related): Jeremy Lin (D-League 2010-11), Marcin Gortat (D.L. in 2007-08), Anthony Tolliver (D.L. in ’07-08, ’08-09, ’09-10), Jordan Farmar (D.L. in 2006-07), Matt Barnes (D.L. in 2002-03), Chuck Hayes (D.L. in 2005-06), Chris Andersen (D.L. in ’01), Dahntay Jones (D.L. 2007-08), Dorell Wright (2005-06), Brandon Bass (2005-06), and many more.

If Shabazz Muhammad is genuinely a bust, he will show us with his play in time. Lets not fall victim to the exact mistake those high school and college talent evaluators made: prematurely labeling him something he might not actually be.