Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. I bring you the third part in this roster-long series. As always, you can follow Tom (@Tom_NBA), Jonah (@howlintwolf) and Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) on Twitter as well to partake in the fun.
It’s been a very long, hard road for this 20-year old.
And please let me stress the “20-year old” part of that.
As fans of the NBA, many of us get caught up too much in the politics of the sport and forget to realize how young, inexperienced and mostly immature many of these rookies, second year, even third and fourth year players really are. On top of trying to become a sound professional athlete, they’re also learning the ways of becoming an adult — the exhausting process we’ve all experienced — or perhaps coping with the fact that they were shoved into premature maturity, if you will, at such a young age because of their talents.
As you may know, Shabazz Muhammad has already had his experiences with the situations outlined above. Touted as the best high school player in his 2012 class, he was forced to grow up early and swallow that inner-teen in him. But then it caught up with him. Stuck in the middle of mostly his dad’s mess that regarded an age discrepancy, Muhammad again had to “mature” faster than usual to explain his father’s mishap, accept responsibility and move on, something no teen would ever wish to go through.
But there were signs of Muhammad’s inner-self poking out throughout his time at UCLA. He showed glimpses of that immaturity any 19-year old would have by getting into tiffs with his coach Ben Howland or pouting when he didn’t get the ball, despite his team winning on a buzzer-beater.
Some would call it arrogance. But with a new veil over my eyes, I believe it’s simply immaturity, something that we all went through — or still may be going through — except without the added pressure of becoming a world-class athlete. It was a mistake for Muhammad to invite a lady friend over during the NBA’s Rookie Symposium but don’t sit there and point the finger when you probably had your girlfriend over after hours when your parents explicitly said no at that age or younger.
My point is, people make mistakes, and when you’re 17-21 years old, you tend to make even more mistakes than usual. This is why I believe it’s time to get over Muhammad’s off-court antics, which have been disappointing, but accept them for what they are in the time-being: complete and utter mistakes.
But I’m not letting Muhammad get off the hook that easily. Oh no. Just because I can sympathize with him through this tough transition from immature young adult to professional athlete with upstanding class does not mean I can dismiss his ailing on-court game.
Muhammad is a pure scorer. That’s always been an odd term for me but in Muhammad’s case it’s true; he simply knows how to put up points. The problem is that he’s never done it on a truly efficient level nor has he developed other parts of his game enough to make them even average at the NBA level.
At UCLA, Muhammad scored 17.9 points a game on 44-percent shooting. Not bad, right? But there’s still glaring weaknesses to the “scorer’s” methods. Muhammad is a volume shooter that likes to use his strength to get inside. The problem there, if you watch his tape, he favors his left hand (His dominant hand) way too much, which makes it easy for the defender to cheat. And he’s not all that big on the NBA level, even for a shooting guard, which means he’s already at a disadvantage. He does a decent job of drawing fouls, averaging just over five free throw attempts per game, but only converted on 71-percent them in college. The worst part is he will settle for an outside jumper before ever thinking of passing the ball off.
No one has yet to see Muhammad play within a structured offense that doesn’t revolve around him, which is why I’m both excited and terrified to see how his rookie season unfolds. He could become a complete mess, both lost and inefficient, just like Derrick Williams was. Or he could find a niche to utilize his scoring capabilities off the bench and be a real spark plug in that role.
For that reason and just about everything else I’ve already mentioned, Muhammad finds himself at 12th on this year’s T-Wolf Rank. It’s not because of his past or what talent scouts have said (Many think he could be an absolute bust, like a Jonny Flynn-type bust, due to his mentality, immaturity and family issues) but rather he simply needs time to grow — both on the court and off — and learn his place on the Wolves, in the NBA and in his own life.
Here’s what some of you had to say:
@howlintwolf he goes against the Minnesota sports behavior grain but if he’s good that what would be awesome
— Andrew (@Chinaman_Andy) August 25, 2013
— Gabby Dearth (@the_real_gabby) August 25, 2013
Want to take part? Look for one of us to tweet out who the next player will be and tweet us your thoughts on him using the #TwolfRank hashtag and we’ll throw your tweet in the post.