Shabazz Nagee Muhammad was in a car on the way to the airport to catch the next flight out to Minnesota to meet up with his teammates to start some pre-training camp workouts when he decided to hop on the phone to talk with Dime. Muhammad, 23, figures to be a key rotation player in the Timberwolves’ youth movement that features the last two rookies of the year in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. There are currently eight Timberwolves who are aged 25 and under, and Muhammad, who is entering a contract year, could be an instrumental force off the bench as the ‘Wolves look to improve on a season that saw some good things out of the kids, but didn’t always translate to wins.
In Dime’s conversation with Muhammad, we talked about the upcoming season, new coach Tom Thibodeau and blocking kids at a youth basketball camp. If things go the way both Thibs and Shabazz want, he’ll finish the season in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year. When he gets playing time, he’s been really efficient, averaging 18 points and six rebounds per 36 minutes. If he has an Achilles heel on the offensive end, it’s his three-point shooting, where he only shot 28.9 percent last year. However, last season was the first year in which he was fully healthy, and going into the 2016-17 season with a coach who believes in his ability to score the ball, we should see improvements in all facets of his game.
The UCLA product doesn’t receive a tremendous amount of attention on a team with a pair of ROY award winners, a 2-time slam dunk champ and, of course, the legendary Kevin Garnett, but Muhammad is looking to be the ‘Wolves X-Factor in 2017, and he’s excited about the opportunity in front of him to become just that.
DIME: What have you been doing this offseason to prepare for the upcoming year?
Shabazz Muhammad: I mean, the offseason has been going really well. I’ve been working out a lot. A lot of basketball stuff like footwork and non-basketball stuff like weight training and conditioning.
Do you have any personal or team-oriented goals for this upcoming season?
SM: Well, yeah. As a team, we want to get above .500 this year. I know we’re really young, but we have really good coaching coming in and we’re going to be ready to play.
Speaking of coaching, does it seem like the whole team is excited to play for Tom Thibodeau this year?
Yeah, everyone’s excited and we’re all interested to see how it’s going to work for all of us. This is our third coach over three years, but we all think Coach is going to be here for a while. We’re excited to grow with him and to become a really good team.
What kind of things have you talked about with Thibs individually?
When I was at the Vegas Summer League, we had a chance to sit down and talk after a workout. We talked about the team and how excited he is to coach us. We talked about my mindset going into the season. After the talk, I felt ready to work and ready to come off the bench to help this team win games.
Do you see your role changing at all now that Thibs is coaching?
Definitely. He told me that I’m going to be a really big part of this team. I’m going to be a big part of our offense off the bench and that he’s going to put me in a lot of spots where I can compete and score the ball. That’s something I’m really excited to get down and start doing for our team — really start helping us get back above .500 and have a really good season.