Welcome to Brew Hoop’s entirely subjective and emotionally-driven 2017-18 Milwaukee Bucks season player evaluations. For this series, we wanted to look at each current Buck and ask three questions: what they do that helps (Boon), what they do that hurts (Bane), and whether they ought to be on this team (Belonging).
I had a cool logo featuring a trio of Bs, but got a “cease and desist” notice from a lawyer wearing $200 flip flops. Oh well. Today, we’re looking at newcomer Shabazz Muhammad, who latched on with the Bucks after being cut loose by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Season Stats (per 36 minutes – rank at position)
- Points/36: 18.4 (7th among small forwards, 85th overall)
- Rebounds/36: 6.5 (18th among small forwards)
- FG%: 0.447 (32nd among small forwards)
- FGA/36: 16.2 (4th among small forwards, 64th overall)
"I think it was more high paced [in Milwaukee] which fits my game more."— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 29, 2018
Full Shabazz Muhammad Exit Interview: pic.twitter.com/unLTPyWqGq
Shabazz’s Boon: Microwave Wing Scoring
Say what you will about it’s predictability, but Muhammad is effective when working towards the basket and getting a shot up with his left hand. His single-minded approach to scoring, which can be boiled down to “go left!” works, largely because of his size/speed combination paired with his touch within 10’ of the rim (nearly three-quarters of his shots are from this “distance”). He may not find success getting buckets against starting-caliber defenses, but against fellow second-stringers he ends up more “hot” than “not.”
Shabazz’s Bane: Outdated Game
The market for scoring wings that can only score from the distance of the free throw line is not a particularly active one. Muhammad, who had a chance to take a sizable extension from the Timberwolves, was waived in no small part because his skillset is simply less valuable than most. His outside shooting is streaky at best, his playmaking (career assist percentage of 5.5%) is nearly non-existent, and his defense didn’t inspire Tom Thibodeau enough to give him any sort of regular run.
Does Shabazz Belong?
In the NBA, context matters. As a featured player earning starter-level money, Muhammad’s glaring weaknesses would quickly attract the ire of coaches, analysts, and fans everywhere. As a part-time contributor off the bench, though, Muhammad’s talents would be leveraged while limiting the team’s exposure to his flaws, and with a price tag more palatable to cap nerds across the league. The Bucks have proven that a scoring wing off the bench can be useful (see: Beasley, Michael), since they can play him in advantageous situations when he’s hot, sit him when he’s not, and the rest of the roster is mostly unaffected. Muhammad’s pre-buyout salary was $1.8M; if he feels comfortable in his role with the Bucks, might general manager Jon Horst offer Shabazz a simliar deal to the one he received in Minnesota? Defying conventional wisdom, the Bucks might be better for it.