Most any reflection on Shabazz Muhammad’s 2016-17 season can be laid to rest before it really gets started. “Bazzy,” who just finished his fourth season, is basically the same Bazzy we came to know in his first three seasons.
A brief summary:
- Bazz’s motor runs hot. It is more visible than anyone else’s. The dude goes to work every day.
- He isn’t a good passer because he is afflicted with tunnel vision. Bazz’s first instinct is to get a shot up. So when Bazz passes, he tends to deliver the ball a bit late and a bit out of sync with the team’s offensive sets.
- He can score in bunches. When he takes defenders to the left block, there’s a good chance he’ll be taking and making a jump hook. Former AWAW scribe Steve McPherson put together this little ditty, which illustrates Muhammad’s go-to move quite well.
Another representation of how stilted Shabazz’s offensive game is can be seen in his shot chart for last season.
You will see that his shot attempts were clustered mostly on the left side of the floor, where Muhammad posts up in strong-side sets or leaks out to the three-point line in weak-side sets for treys off of ball reversals and swing passes.
What Was Different in 2016-17
For all of the continuity we saw in Shabazz Muhammad’s game in 2016-17, it would be misleading to intimate that there wasn’t any variability in his development and performance.
First, as machine-like as Muhammad’s motor and offensive repertoire can seem, it felt like he had fairly extreme highs and lows throughout different parts of the season. Bazz started the season poorly, then played really well—he shot the hell out of the 3 ball for a while, in January and February—and then regressed at the end of the season. As the chart shows, Muhammad’s accuracy from deep fluctuated a lot throughout the season.
Unsurprisingly, our assessment of Muhammad also fluctuated throughout the season, from “TRADE HIM NOW” to “HE’S GOING TO GET PAID IN FREE AGENCY NEXT YEAR SHOULD WE MATCH?” to a mere * shrug *.
Second, Muhammad’s defense evolved this year, but it isn’t clear exactly * how * it evolved. As with most things Shabazz, it fluctuated in aways that were at best semi-intelligible. (Eds. Note: The dude simply has a funky, unique game.)
Bazz’s defensive rating hung really, weirdly low for most of the season, before spiking up at the end.
Based on the eye-test, I think Muhammad improved significantly on defense. The real question is how much. Bazz was an absolute disaster as a defender before last season, so he had a lot of room to improve.
Finally, Shabazz will be a restricted free agent this offseason. There has been much debate about how much the Wolves should pay him. Tom Thibodeau has said he likes Bazz a lot, but what else could he possibly say during the season? It might just be cheap talk.
Despite his quirks, I hope the Wolves will retain Shabazz Muhammad. Do you?