Some believed the Minnesota Timberwolves got a steal when they selected Shabazz Muhammad with the last pick in this year’s lottery. The former top prospect has some off-court problems, sure, but most believed he’d be fine as long as he was able to keep his nose clean at the next level.
That unfortunately hasn’t been the case for Muhammad, however. The 20-year-old UCLA product struggled at the NBA Summer League for the Timberwolves and didn’t help himself by being the only player kicked out of this year’s NBA Rookie Transition Program. The violation was minor — he reportedly had a female guest in his room that wasn’t pre-approved by the faculty — but it was just the latest in what’s been a tough year for the former Bruin.
And, if it doesn’t get better soon, things could get worse: New general manager Flip Saunders was pretty blunt when talking with KFAN’s Dan Barreiro regarding the Muhammad situation:
“In our league, you have to be disciplined and being ‘disciplined’ is being able to adhere to whatever rules are given and you gotta abide by the rules,” Saunders said on the local radio host’s show. “So that’s been disappointing. But when I talk to him, he’s either gonna learn the rules and learn to abide by things with the big boys or he’s gonna really quick learn a geography class: where Des Moines is in the NBDL down in Iowa.”
The idea of using the D-League as punishment isn’t a good one — I’ve argued that many times in many places in the past — but playing for the Iowa Energy might be just what Muhammad needs in order to get a reality check. Players in the D-League isn’t for the mentally weak and the veterans that have scratched and clawed just to get into the world’s most-scouted league would likely put a target on the back of a player many considered to be a potential top pick during his younger years.
If Muhammad is assigned to the D-League and thrives with the reality check, it’ll be worth it and likely a humbling experience. If he takes the assignment as punishment and blows it off, however, it’ll be one more bad step in a career that’s beginning to have too many for a 20-year-old rookie.