Shabazz Muhammad: I’ve been wanting to have that starting role for a while
A subpar rookie season can set an unfortunate tone for the rest of a career. Clearly, a player can turn around his reputation in time, but first impressions do stick, whether that's unjust or not.
There aren't many better examples of that than Shabazz Muhammad, who was a top recruit when he headed to UCLA and a late lottery pick when he joined the Timberwolves and disappointed upon entering Minnesota.
That was as a rookie, though. Last year, year two, that was different. En route to becoming the best Shabazz in the NBA, Muhammad scored like a maniac mostly off the bench in limited playing time, averaging 21.3 points per 36 minutes before his season was cut short by injuries.
Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell isn't taking that scoring outburst lightly. The Wolves are struggling to find a starting 3, and Mitchell still hasn't ruled out placing Muhammad in that spot.
From Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune:
With Zach LaVine heading to the bench after just three preseason starts at shooting guard, Andrew Wiggins, who started at small forward a season ago, is now the expected 2. Tayshaun Prince has been his partner in wing crime of late, but the 14-year vet is almost 36 years old. How much longer can he hold onto that role if Muhammad comes out and performs?
Shabazz is hoping the answer is, not very.
Let's not forget Muhammad is still just under 23 years old. (Of course, no one's ever been accused of not knowing Shabazz Muhammad's age.) He's got plenty of time to improve. At this point, it's not so much how the Wolves use him but if they do. As long as he's receiving minutes, getting time to develop, Minnesota's priorities will appear in order.
Just a few feet away Muhammad, chiseled at 6-6 and 217 pounds, was taking extra shots. He was one of the last players on the court. And Mitchell was asked about the energy Muhammad might bring off the bench.
“I’m not going to say that,” Mitchell started. “Right now it’s too early to pigeonhole a guy to a position. We’re still very high on Shabazz. Time will tell. … He still has the opportunity to be a starter one day.”
To Muhammad, starting is always the goal. But right now, any playing time will do.
“I’ve been wanting to have that starting role for a while now,” he said. “I’ve been working hard, been in the gym extra. I’m going to be ready.”