Shabazz Muhammad Returns to Timberwolves

Back on July 2nd, it seemed like a near-certainty that Shabazz Muhammad’s time in Minnesota had come to a close. That day, the Wolves renounced their rights to him, making Bazzy an unrestricted free agent. The move helped the team gain the necessary cap room to sign two high-priority free agents (Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson), and gave Muhammad a shot at finding a new team with plenty of time left in the free agency period.

But none of his rumored suitors (the Hawks, Nets, Bucks, Magic, and Lakers were allegedly in contact) could swing a deal, leading to speculation that Muhammad could return to Minnesota. Jamal Crawford, for one, openly lobbied him to do so on Twitter. Today, we got the confirmation that he is in fact returning, with the news broken first by Adrian Wojnarowski:

Bazz himself chimed in shortly afterward:

Woj’s column about the deal had a number of interesting tidbits, but this paragraph is the one that stood out the most:

Muhammad turned down better paying offers that included the bi-annual and room exception to return to a potentially playoff-bound Minnesota team and return to free agency in 2018 with the option of Minnesota re-signing him to a longer team deal, sources said. The Timberwolves could be more limited next summer in the players they can acquire in free agency, and owning Muhammad’s Bird Rights could make him the team’s most viable long-term option.

Let’s unpack that thing point by point, shall we?

  1. “Muhammad turned down better paying offers that included the biannual and room exception to return (to Minnesota).” This sounds like agent spin, to me, but if it’s true, it means that Bazz potentially turned down as much as $3.3 million (the biannual exception) or $4.3 million (the room exception) to return to the Timberwolves for less than half that amount, $1.6 million. Again, if it’s true, it’s a sign he really wants to be here. If, you know, it’s true.
  2. “The option of Minnesota signing him to a longer term deal.” It’s certainly a possibility, as Minnesota’s cap situation will get a lot trickier once Wiggins’ extension kicks in next summer. Re-signing someone in-house may be the Wolves’ best option, as they (almost certainly) won’t have any cap room to speak of.
  3. “Owning Muhammad’s Bird Rights could make him the team’s most viable long-term option.” The Bird Rights thing is important – the Wolves could exceed the cap to keep him here – but without a sharp improvement, especially defensively, it’s tough to see Tom Thibodeau giving Bazz a lucrative extension. And unless he has a breakout season, it’s also tough to see free agency going much better for Bazz next summer.

So let’s call this what it is: an unfortunate development for Bazz’s wallet, because he is certainly better than a league-minimum player (in my humble opinion) but struck out on the open market. The Wolves end up with pretty good value for $1.6 million, and will have the option of extending him going into next summer.

Best case scenario for both Bazz and the team? He takes a giant leap forward in his fifth season with the Timberwolves, helps the team into the playoffs for the first time in a decade and a half, and forces Thibs/Layden, LLC to make a very difficult decision regarding paying him a lot of money in July 2018. Let’s all hope for that scenario, shall we?

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  1. Getting Baz so cheaply allows the wolves to also put Anthony Brown in Des Moines, instead of relying on him for minutes. It also means that they probably won’t get Tony Allen (heard he is going to the Pelicans). So hopefully, they can get Jason Terry to play either guard spot and then you would have a pretty good shooting bench.

    Baz is sadly, one of my least favorite players, because of who was drafted after him. Flip passed on Giannis for Baz and that is just another example of how badly our player evaluations have been for this franchise. I think Baz was expecting to be great in the league and when he got slapped in the face with reality, he sculpted his body to be more NBA quality, which is commendable. However, he really hasn’t improved enough defensively to be a valued member of any team, especially a Thibs team. However, he does rebound for his position and he can get hot from the wing beyond the arc and maybe that is enough for the ninth player off the bench. If somehow, the light bulb turns on and he sees other players on a break, or can be more reliable beyond the arc he has had some nice games, I will be the first to congratulate him and say I was wrong to be so upset about not getting the Greek Freak.

    One more spot to fill. Jason Terry or Dante Cunningham please.

  2. 12 down, 2 regular and 1 two-way contract to go. It’ll be interesting to see how much time he gets, since there isn’t the automatic rotation spot for him anymore. He’ll probably at least see minutes during the 5-15 games that Butler will be out with some inevitable injury, but it’d be strange to see him take less money for fewer minutes. There must be a verbal understanding that he’ll be playing regularly; otherwise, it just seems like he came back for some unnecessary loyalty. It’s also not clear whether giving any of their future $$ to him is a good idea if he’s what he was last season. There’s only so much to spend before hitting the luxury tax, and it can’t be assumed that they’ll be looking to pay that since a team retains a lot more flexibility if they’re not above it.

  3. Kinda sad for Shabazz that so little interest was shown on the market for him. I think he expected to get snapped up fairly quickly. I have to say, despite all his flaws I’ve had the privilege to see, I was taken aback a bit myself by the lack of interest. I mean that level of interest is like playing yourself out of the league is the next step down type of interest. You can hear the crickets starting. It could get dicey for him long term as an NBA player if he doesn’t improve his rep this season. For us it seems like a good pick up, given the late date and amount of money we have. And Shabazz is comfortable here, so that might help. On a happier note for him, I think he needs a mentor. Maybe Crawford isn’t the best influence (Shabazz needs to learn a micron of defense) but he’s a baller who knows how to succeed in the NBA and seems intent on putting Shabazz under his wing. Like has been the case with most of the players on our roster, coaching really hasn’t taken well and mentor type relations with vets on the roster might be a key we’ve been missing.