Report: Washington Wizards Showing Interest In Shabazz Muhammad

The Washington Wizards are reportedly trying to acquire Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad. He could bolster a struggling bench, and make the Wizards a contender for the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond.

The Washington Wizards have recovered from a poor start to the season and are currently the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Their starting lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat has a Net Rating of +13.0 per NBA.com — far above the team’s overall mark of 3.2. That lineup has also played more minutes than any other lineup in the NBA.

Most of the Wizards’ issues this season can be traced back to poor play from their bench. Although some of their reserves have recovered from a disastrous start to the season, the drop-off between Washington’s starters and its second unit is more dramatic than any other team in the league.

With the 2017 NBA Trade Deadline rapidly approaching, the Wizards may find a solution to their bench woes. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Minnesota Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad is one of their targets:

With Lou Williams officially off the market, Washington might be willing to part with a protected first round pick to secure Muhammad. If they did, he could bolster their moribund bench scoring. Muhammad might not be a franchise-altering player, but he is a cure for what ails the Wizards.

Scoring Spark Plug

Shabazz Muhammad is an unconventional scorer who can put up points against a wide variety of opponents. He has a nuanced post-up game and has enough tricks to confound opponents of all sizes.

Shabazz has the strength to bully smaller guards and push them into the rim. He also has the speed to blow past big men. Minnesota is playing him more minutes at small forward this year, but he started his career at shooting guard and can score effectively from either wing position.

One of the best shots in his arsenal is his one-handed push shot. He usually pulls it out on the right block and can loft it over big men when he cannot quite make it to the rim:

Another important element of Muhammad’s game is his much-improved jump shot. A career 31.3 percent shooter from deep before this season, Muhammad is shooting 41.4 percent from behind the arc this season.

While it might be premature to declare him an elite shooter, his improvement in that area is noteworthy. His True Shooting Percentage and free throw percentage are also at career-high levels this year.

Both of those numbers indicate that his jump shot is better than it was. While 41.4 percent might be unsustainable, his shot simply looks better and the numbers back that up.

Unfortunately, Muhammad does not provide much beyond scoring. He averages only 5.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, and he has 15 assists all season. Luckily, the Wizards will not need much from him beyond consistent scoring at his newly efficient rate.

Long-Term Outlook

Washington is somewhat bereft of young assets, which is presumably what Minnesota would want in a deal. Kelly Oubre Jr. is more valuable than Muhammad at this point, and none of the Wizards’ other young pieces make sense for Minnesota.

However, the Wizards have all of their own first round picks through 2019. They also have second round picks in both 2017 and 2018. Washington’s pick this year is currently slated to be the 23rd overall pick. While this draft might not be the best one to trade out of, the Wizards could also send along their 2018 or 2019 pick. Given how the Wizards have played after their rough start, those two picks will more than likely be outside of the lottery as well.

Shabazz Muhammad will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season, which also complicates matters. Washington may be wary about giving up valuable assets for a player whose price tag is about to explode. If Minnesota would take two second round picks instead of a first, general manager Ernie Grunfeld might be more willing to make a move.

The Wizards are poised for a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Kevin Love‘s injury and Toronto’s recent slump have opened the door for the rest of the East. Washington has the best record in the league over the last 10 games.

If they can upgrade their bench, the Wizards might have enough firepower to sneak past the Cleveland Cavaliers. Shabazz Muhammad is the type of player that the Wizards need. If they can get him for a good price, he could shake up the playoff picture.

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