Since being drafted with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Shabazz Muhammed has barely seen any court time with the Minnesota Timberwolves, totalling 44 minutes in just 11 appearances.
It therefore came as no surprise when Minnesota assigned the youngster to the D-League this weekend, to play for their affiliate, the Iowa Energy.
To be honest, it isn't an ideal situation for Muhammad, as the Timberwolves are without single affiliation with the Energy. With Bulls' guard Marquis Teague and top prospects Othyus Jeffers and Jarvis Varnado already on the squad, there is plenty of talent in Iowa, meaning there is no guarantee that Muhammad will get the minutes he is likely looking for. Nevertheless, he's approaching his time in the D-League with the right attitude: as an opportunity to get some minutes and to show what he is capable of.
On Tuesday afternoon, Muhammad made his D-League debut and it just so happened to be on the minor league's brightest stage: The Reno Showcase.
In the first-half, Muhammad looked tentative and lost at times, floating around the perimeter and not touching the ball for several possessions in a row. After barely playing for so long, it was to be expected that it would take him some time to get his feet wet, but he soon started to attack the glass and muscle his way around the basket. This led him to a half-time total of 12 points and four rebounds.
In the third, he was clearly more comfortable and he even went on a little hot streak, scoring 10 points in a three minute span. However, Muhammad was soon taken out of the game and after the Energy built a 19 point lead heading into the fourth quarter, he only received a few minutes at the end of regulation, failing to score another point.
By the end of the night, Shabazz finished with a game-high 24 points on 9-13 shooting from the floor. He also grabbed seven rebounds - four of which came on the offensive end - and dished out two assists. But more importantly, he played 25 minutes, by far the most he's registered in a game so far this season.
While there was a lot of good to take away from his debut, there is still a lot we didn't see. Out of those 13 shots he attempted, only one was from outside the paint, which he happened to knock down. Other than that, he scored all his points around the rim or from the free throw line, and failed to create any scoring opportunities for himself. Again, he scored 24 points in 25 minutes, so there isn't too much to complain about, but it's worth noting that there is room for improvement.
In saying that, the Timberwolves' staff couldn't have asked for more from Muhammed in his first D-League game. He played with energy, he made big plays on both ends of the court, he hustled, he showed little rust and he led the Energy to a big win over the Bakersfield Jam.
Now let's see if he can do all that and more in his next game.
Muhammad's (laggy) Highlights