As Tom Thibodeau figures out how to fill the remaining roster spots left on his Minnesota Timberwolves, one of his newest roster additions is doing some of the recruiting for him.
The Timberwolves signed Jamal Crawford to a two-year, $8.9 million contract in early July. It only took him a month to find an additional role as a recruiter.
But J-Crossover isn’t just recruiting any player — it’s Shabazz Muhammad, the streaky bench scorer who spent his first four seasons in Minnesota.
Bazz, keeping in tune with the NBA Twitter culture, responded with one of my personal favorite emojis during the NBA offseason.
— shabazz muhammad (@ShabazzMuhammad) August 17, 2017
Muhammad might be the streakiest player in the NBA. He played 19.4 minutes per game a season ago, averaging 9.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per and shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from beyond the arc.
His streaky tendencies lie almost squarely with his scoring. He led the league in points per touch once again, this time by a half of a point over second-place Klay Thompson. This may look impressive at first glance, but it essentially means Muhammad passed the ball at a smaller rate than any player in the NBA by a wide margin.
And because Muhammad passes the ball so rarely, his offensive evaluation as a player relies solely on his scoring efficiency. His shooting percentage has remained under 49 percent throughout his career, and his career percentage from three-point range falls under 33 percent. He does make up for shortcomings there by getting to the free throw line at a high rate, attempting 4.5 free throws per 36 minutes.
Defensively, Muhammad has mostly earned negative reviews. His aggressiveness often gets him in trouble and he was lost, just as many of the Wolves were, last season adjusting to the Thibodeau defense. He posted one of the handful of lowest dRPM’s in the league, and his DBPM was a career worst -4.3. Bazz also posted the lowest defensive rebounding rate of his career.
For what it’s worth, though, the Wolves defense did perform slightly better when he was on the court compared to when he was off (110.3 defensive rating to 113.1 defensive rating).
Crawford’s recruitment of Muhammad can be interpreted a couple of ways simultaneously. First of all, Crawford wants Muhammad to return as a member of the Timberwolves. That part is crystal clear. It’s also presumably understood that Crawford is aware that the Wolves can only sign players to minimum contracts.
So while Crawford is vouching for Muhammad, he’s also sharing what he thinks Muhammad is worth -- a minimum contract. Given that Crawford just signed a two-year, $8.9 million contract, it appears he would take over the role of primary bench scorer whether Muhammad returns or not.
This would leave Muhammad in a complimentary bench role for the most part, which has never been his forte. Would he be comfortable receiving less touches? Would he be effective spreading the floor as a shooter? These are the types of questions that need to be answered, assuming Crawford becomes the primary bench scoring option.
Muhammad’s career arc is more of a horizontal line at this point. In one game, he’ll provide a desperately-needed spark off the bench with hustle, rebounding and scoring. The next game, he’ll be almost nonexistent.
Is that what the Wolves should be looking for with one of the remaining minimum contracts they have left to use? Several players still remain that would improve more pressing needs, such Tony Allen, Mike Dunleavy, K.J. McDaniels, Anthony Morrow, Aaron Brooks, C.J. Watson and others.
Muhammad and Crawford don’t appear to be great fits on the court. But hey, if Crawford himself is recruiting Bazz, I guess I shouldn’t question it.