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:
Free agent guard Shabazz Muhammad is finalizing a deal to return to Minnesota, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 12, 2017
Bazz himself chimed in shortly afterward:
— shabazz muhammad (@ShabazzMuhammad) September 12, 2017
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?
- “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.
- “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.
- “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?