Seems hard to believe but this year's NBA Draft is a little over two weeks away. Rumors regarding the draft have begun to really heat up as workouts have progressed. In previous installments of our 'Future is Now' series, we've looked at defensive-minded big men Jeff Withey of Kansas and Gorgui Dieng of Louisville. This installment of the series profiles former UCLA swingman Shabazz Muhammad. Muhammad's stock has been dropping recently and while he was once thought a sure thing to be selected in the Top 10, Chad Ford's recent mock draft has him falling to the Celtics at #16.
Full Name: Shabazz Muhammad
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
College: UCLA (1 Year)
Date of Birth: November 13, 1992 (20 Years Old)
Current ESPN Mock Draft Position: 16th to the Boston Celtics
Height: 6'6" (With Shoes), Weight: 222 Pounds, Wingspan: 6'11"
College Career: Muhammad came into this college basketball season as one of the most heralded freshman in the country. He headlined a star-studded UCLA recruiting class that many believed would catapult the Bruins program back into the national spotlight. The NCAA suspended him for a violation of amateurism before the season started, although the ban would be dropped after just three games. Muhammad had a productive season, averaging 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, although his one season at UCLA is viewed as a relative disappointment. His refusal to celebrate with his teammates after Larry Drew hit a game winner to beat Washington is the lasting image of his college career. Many speculated that Muhammad was upset that he wasn't given the ball to win the game for his team leading some to wonder if he is a true team player. Muhammad's Bruins were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Minnesota in a blowout where Muhammad scored 20 points but went 0-6 from three point land. After the season, the LA Times learned that his father had forged his birth records in order to make him appear to have been born in 1993 rather than 1992. Overall, it was a relatively disappointing and tumultuous one year stay at UCLA for Muhammad.
Strengths: Muhammad is a good scorer, although he isn't much in the way of an isolation threat who can create his own shot whenever he pleases. He is a high IQ player who cuts well and knows how to make himself a threat coming off of screens. He is an aggressive player who likes to get to the rim whenever possible. Due to his physical nature, he does a good job seeking contact and drawing fouls. Muhammad has decent ball handling moves but needs to continue to improve them in order to get by NBA-caliber defenders. He also needs to develop a right hand. While it's nice that he's left-handed, he can be one-dimensional in the sense that he only looks to attack with his left. He is a good spot up shooter and can stretch defenses out due to his ability to punish opposing teams if left open. He likes to play a physical brand of basketball and hits the boards well for his size and position, specifically on the offensive glass. Additionally, his 6'11" wingspan gives him a tremendous edge on defense which increases his potential value.
There are a few things that are causing Muhammad's draft stock to slip. First and foremost, he is a little undersized for the small forward position at 6'5", though his wingspan does help. He also isn't the most impressive athletic specimen; he lacks ideal explosiveness that scouts like to see from slashing players. His lateral quickness also isn't great which means he'll have a tougher time defending small forwards who are both bigger and faster than he is. That said, with his strength and wingspan, he still has potential. However, his defense falls off if his offense isn't working well which is an issue. On offense, Muhammad needs to develop a right hand. Not only does he not like attacking off the dribble with his right hand, but he also finishes almost exclusively left-handed around the rim, making it easy to play him that way. Muhammad isn't much of an isolation threat on offense either; he could really stand to improve his pullup jumpshot in order to become more of a scorer. Additionally, he isn't a great creator for his teammates; he averaged less than 1 assist per game at UCLA this season.
Video Breakdown (Courtesy DraftExpress):
On film, one of the things that really stands out is his competitiveness and willingness to do some of the unglamorous things like get to the free throw line and hit the offensive glass (starting at the 5:48 mark). He plays with high effort on the offensive end and his willingness to mix it up could really help a Boston team whose offensive went through some pretty passive stretches throughout the past season, making it tough to score points. However, the tape also shows, for a solid 3 minutes, (9 minute mark to 12 minute mark) his struggles with creating offensive scoring opportunities both for himself and for his teammates. The fact that Michael Beasley is a comparison for a non-big man with a similarly low assist-possession rate should be troubling. The last real thing the tape reveals is that he doesn't always give consistent effort and isn't always effective on defense.
How He Fits the Celtics: Muhammad would be an interesting fit for the Celtics. He's not really a player they need right now, especially if Paul Pierce is brought back for another season. He does some of the gritty, aggressive things that really would be welcomed on the Celtics second unit, which has been offensively starved for years. He could be interesting if paired with Rajon Rondo or even Jeff Green who could potentially create shots for him rather than asking him to create his own. That said, Danny Ainge typically values defense quite highly when evaluating prospects so it'd be surprising to see Ainge call on Muhammad with the 16th pick, given his deficiencies. Muhammad has some raw talent and is definitely a competitor as long as hit shot is falling, but if he's even around with the 16th pick, the Celtics should look elsewhere or look to deal with a team that he fits in better with.
Height, Weight, Wingspan and Video courtesy of DraftExpress
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