Bucks Lead

The Case for Re-Signing Shabazz Muhammad

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As we persist into late July, the Bucks still have two free agency decisions of their own to make. One of those is guard/forward Shabazz Muhammad.

Muhammad was a late addition to last year’s team. After being waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves in early March, Bucks General Manager Jon Horst wasted no time, quickly waiving Sean Kilpatrick in order to free up a spot for Shabazz.

Bazz appeared in 11 games for the Bucks this past season (15 if you include the playoffs), and made his limited minutes count. He averaged 8.5 points and 2.8 rebounds across 10.6 minutes per game (not including playoffs). During his time in Minnesota this past season (32 games), he averaged only 3.8 points across 9.4 minutes per game.

Drafted one slot ahead of Giannis in the 2013 NBA Draft (traded from Utah to Minnesota on draft night), Bazz was never able to crack a starter’s load of minutes with the Timberwolves. His best seasons in Minneapolis came back-to-back in 2014-2016, where he averaged slightly north of 20 minutes per contest (22.8 in 2014-15, 20.5 in 2015-16).

He made his limited minutes count in Milwaukee, scoring in bursts during much needed scoring droughts throughout his time with the Bucks. Here are a few samples.

He’s a proven bench booster, something the Bucks will need to shore up with Jabari Parker now in Chicago. At 6’6, Muhammad is somewhat undersized, but as you can see, he can still bully his way down the lane.

If Bazz is such a prolific scorer, then why didn’t he get much tick with the T-Wolves? One reason; defense.

Out of 462 players, Muhammad ranked 461st in ESPN’s “Defensive Real Plus-Minus” stat during the 2015-16 season. Dallas’ J.J Barea, standing 5’9, was the only player ranked behind Bazz.

Now, you can’t entirely pin his defensive woes as to why he never flourished in Minnesota. Sometimes, it’s the system. Bazz’s first change of scenery finally came last season, and he seemingly enjoyed it.

“I think we take some stuff back and just know for next year we have to work harder and get back to our point and higher.”

Being an upcoming free agent at the time, it’s interesting to hear Bazz talk about next season, hinting that he wants to stay with the Bucks. He also mentioned pace, and how it “fits his game more” here than with Minnesota.

As for the defensive side, it’s not great, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Plays like these give us an idea of what off-ball defense he could have going forward should he remain with the Bucks.

Granted, he hasn’t been the most agile guy, but in an interview with HoopsHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky, he has made a significant diet change, which has seen him lose a decent amount of body fat.

The Bucks would have to clear a roster spot to bring Bazz back, which they can do so without absorbing a cap hit by waiving either Tyler Zeller or Brandon Jennings, both of whom are on non-guaranteed contracts. Zeller’s guarantee date isn’t until January, but Jennings’ deadline, August 1st, is approaching very quickly. For Muhammad and Milwaukee’s other free agent decision, Jason Terry, moves will have to be made to retain one or both.

With Jabari gone and Michael Beasley no longer available, bringing Bazz back makes sense. The Bucks need to strengthen their frontcourt bench, and being under Mike Budenholzer’s system could blossom the former lottery pick.

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About Eric Peterson

CEO and Content Manager at TLSM and Bucks Lead branch. Currently studying Sport Management at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Twitter: @EricTLSM

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