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PBT NBA Draft Preview: Has Shabazz Muhammad slid into a real value pick?

May 14, 2013, 8:01 PM EDT

Shabazz Muhammad Getty Images

For the next five weeks PBT will be profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Tonight we look at UCLA’s star from last season.

If you looked at the early 2013 NBA draft projections that came out right after the 2012 draft, Shabazz Muhammad was in everybody’s top three. He was the college recruit that was going to save Ben Howland at UCLA and go on to be a big-time NBA player.

Things look very different a year later.

In college the weaknesses in Muhammad’s game were exposed and he couldn’t just be a bully scorer anymore. Then came the revelation in a Los Angeles Times piece that he is 20 years old, not 19. (When you play a physical game, being a high schooler a year older than everyone is a big advantage.) Right now DraftExpress has him going at No. 10.

I got to see a fair amount of him in college and Muhammad can still ball — he can score a variety of ways and he can defend, he’s high energy — but he’s seen as a rotation player on the wing (he’s 6’6”). Sometimes players like this that slide can slide too far — they go from being overvalued to undervalued. We’ll see if that’s the case here.

STRENGTHS

He can score. He’s physically strong and knows how to use that to get the shots he wants — he’s what you’d call a bully scorer in a lot of ways. He made a living in college just dominating smaller defenders and he can do that in the pros. He also runs the floor really well and can score in transition.

If he goes to a team with a strong point guard already he can be very dangerous — he can catch and shoot threes, he can cut and slash, and with that strength he finishes around the rim.

But really the best thing about him is the effort — when things are going his way (he can slack when shots don’t fall). When he’s on he doesn’t take plays off at either end. He will work hard on defense, he’s physical and he can grind. He wants to get better. He has the mentality Tom Thibodeau would love. Which is a good sign.

WEAKNESSES

He’s very one-handed — he’s all left hand. That makes him easier to defend and that was already a bit of an issue. While he knows how to score he’s not a guy who can really create his own shot at the NBA level. He could be a guy taking a lot of contested runners. Again, this becomes about fit, in the right system his style of scoring would have value. But he’s not a guy you want to get in a lot of isolation situations in the NBA.

The other concern is that he’s not that athletic (solid but not explosive by NBA standards) and he’s an inch or two shorter than a handful of the threes he likely guards at the NBA. While he has the effort, is he ripe to get abused in mismatches?

There also were a number of red flags for teams — academic issues, an overbearing father, questions about how good a teammate he was. Interviews at the draft combine and at workouts will matter a lot for him; he needs to dispel all that.

WHERE DOES HE GET DRAFTED?

Probably between five and 10 (DraftExpress says 10). Again, this is a guy I think could really thrive in the right system with the right point guard next to him. Teams such as the Wizards, the Timberwolves and the Trail Blazers (with guards who can create for him) could put Muhammad in the rotation and get some value right away.

Also remember to look at the guys who have come out of Ben Howland’s UCLA in recent years (Jrue Holiday, for example) — they look a lot better in the pros than they did in his system.

  1. melkipershero - May 14, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    He slid to where he should be. Hes a good player but wont be great. The whole age thing was weird though. This is why atleast one year of college is good, but two would be better for both the NBA and college.

  2. albertmn - May 14, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    Timberwolves need a 2 guard, but they also need one that can create his own shot at least occasionally. Too often late in games, they couldn’t get a good look for a shot.

    • melkipershero - May 14, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      The T’Wolves should sign and trade Pek IMO. Good player but has injury issues and is not a great defensive player. Probably could get a mid-round first this year for him and possibly another young player.

      • albertmn - May 15, 2013 at 10:15 AM

        No way they would get that much for Pek. You just listed his shortcomings, so why would anyone else give up a pick and a player for him? I would like the Wolves to keep him if they can get him at a reasonable price. There are nights when he is unstoppable.

  3. money2long - May 14, 2013 at 8:56 PM

    when the lottery positions get sorted out shortly this month, there will be even more questions and guesses that arise.

  4. logisticalvoices - May 14, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    I think more of these “can’t miss” NBA high school prospects need to ditch the 1-and done college route. I don’t know why someone like Andrew Wiggins doesn’t just play a year in the D-League. He would get a lot more attention by spurning the NCAA. You think that the NBA would want this too to make the D-League more relevant. I guess nobody wants to mess with the multi-billion dollar system that’s set up now.

    • melkipershero - May 14, 2013 at 9:32 PM

      I would say because of the competition they would play. Great exposure at KU. The college experience is a great one and really helps people grow. If you’re a lock NBA player on a college campus you pretty much have free run of the place.

      I could see a guy who struggles with grades doing the D-League route though.

  5. 32stork - May 14, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    Muhammad will be an average player in the NBA and nothing more.

  6. saint1997 - May 15, 2013 at 1:20 AM

    Dude is gonna be a cancer on some team

  7. jimbo75025 - May 15, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    I would seriously question the wisdom of using a top-10 pick on this guy. Started off with a suspension due to benefits problems, age issue which is huge for a kid coming out of high school, and while he was a good college player he did not dominate.

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