Pistons 116, Wolves 108: Let’s Talk About Shabazz Muhammad
The Wolves fell to the Detroit Pistons Friday night by the score of 116-108. Detroit’s Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer, and Andre Drummond were the major forces that simply overpowered the Wolves. Morris and Leuer combined for an audacious 60 points on a miraculous nine of 16 from three (both players entered the night shooting 32.4% from 3) and Drummond Hulk-smashed the Wolves on the glass to the tune of 18 rebounds, six of which were of the offensive variety.
The Wolves started the game off cold, shooting a rather frigid 29.2% from the field in the first quarter. They were outscored by six during the opening frame and with the team ultimately losing by eight, it’s pretty safe to assume that their lackluster start may have cost them the game. Although it was a game that should have been winnable, the Wolves ultimately fell short.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about something a little more fun and interesting. I want to talk about Shabazz Muhammad and his remarkable hot streak.
To say Shabazz Muhammad has been on fire lately, especially from beyond the arc, would be an understatement. In the 30 games prior to January 1st, Muhammad was hitting a somewhat respectable, though ultimately below league average, 33.3% (14/24) of his three-point attempts. He was converting at a clip that made teams stay honest on defense, especially when he was in the corners, but not enough to make them afraid.
However, in the 15 games since the turn of the new year, Muhammad is connecting on a blistering 57.1% (24/42) of his three-point attempts, which, as our very own Tim Faklis pointed out, leads the league over that time span.
On the season, he is shooting a career high in overall three-point field goal percentage (3FG%) (45.8%), 3FG% from both corners (48.0% from the left, 53.3% from the right), and 3FG% from above the break (41.9%). He has been an integral part of the Wolves resurgence over the last 20-plus games, providing not so much a spark, but more of an explosion off the bench, averaging 12.2 points in 23.0 minutes of action on 57.3% shooting from 3 (2.6 attempts per game).
Although he is still a black hole on offense and to say he is a sieve on defense would be putting it lightly (though he has been better lately), his improvement over the course of the season has been staggering (however, it should be noted that Muhammad’s career, up to this point, has resembled a Six Flags rollercoaster, so his impending regression to the mean is not a matter of if, but when and to what extent). Because the Wolves did not resign him prior to the early November deadline, Muhammad will be a restricted free agent this upcoming summer and it will be interesting to monitor how the Wolves handle that situation going forward.
It has been reported by multiple outlets (most notably KSTP and 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson and, more recently, here) that the Wolves have made Muhammad available in trades, but the recent play of Muhammad begs the question of whether the Wolves would be better off resigning him to a multi-year contract. He provides great and much needed energy off then bench and, when he is on, he is an explosive scorer. He’ll never be starting caliber due to his defensive and focus-related liabilities, but his ability to play both the three and the four provides versatility and an inside-out game that is valuable in today’s NBA.
However, consistency has always been an issue with Muhammad; for every one of his highs, there is an equally low low. When he is on, he is a great bench piece, when is off, he’s nigh unplayable. When you consider that his value may be at an all-time high at the moment and that there is a decent chance that another team will offer him more money this summer than the Wolves will be willing to (or, really, able to when you consider the incoming deals for Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Zach LaVine), trading Shabazz Muhammad before the February 23rd deadline begins to make a lot of sense. Muhammad could possibly fetch a nice veteran bench player who better attenuates the Wolves bench deficiencies, namely defense and consistency.
But, for now, all we can do is enjoy the experience that is Shabazz Muhammad’s latest tear and wait to see if it continues off into the sunset or crashes into it.
- Zach LaVine, who posted a line of 20/4/4 in 32 minutes, left the game in the second half after colliding with a Piston’s player in the air. LaVine initially stayed in the game, but later left and never returned. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune provided an update after the game:
Thibs said LaVine left game in 2nd half because of left knee contusion and will be re-examined when team gets back home
— Jerry Zgoda (@JerryZgoda) February 4, 2017
- Kris Dunn did not appear in the game Friday night, sitting out due to a sore wrist. Tyus Jones played 15 minutes in his stead and posted a rather unremarkable two points, three assists, and one steal. He did some things well; he did some things not so well.
- Karl-Anthony Towns tallied 24 points and 11 rebounds for his 39th double-double of the year
- Andrew Wiggins did not have his best game. Although he scored 21 points, he did it on 8/20 shooting and defended Morris for most of the night. As a result, he was a team low -13. Chalk it up to being an off night for Wiggins and an extremely hot night for Morris.
- In keeping with one of head coach Tom Thibodeau’s main defensive strategies (that being coercing opponents into shooting long twos), the Wolves allowed the Pistons to shoot approximately 19 shots from 16-19 feet. Typically, those are the shots you want opposing teams to shoot due to their low efficiency. However, entering the night the Pistons were fourth in the league at converting those shots, hitting on 43.8% of their attempts. Against the Wolves, they shot 63.1% (12/19). (image via the Wolves’ iPhone app)
- The Wolves turnaround and play the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday night in the second game of a road/home back-to-back. Tip is set for 8 p.m.