5 Things We Learned from NBA Prospect Shabazz Muhammad's Debut
It's possible that Monday's anticipated debut of Shabazz Muhammad triggered some yawns and shoulder shrugs, but we did get some valuable takeaways from his quietly productive performance.
He wasn't a factor on the glass and got beat a couple of times inside, but overall had a solid showing considering the circumstances. Georgetown's zone defense was the perfect formula to offset Muhammad's strengths, and despite minimal practice and preparation, he was able to score 15 points while shooting 50 percent from the floor.
Muhammad's comfort level will continue to rise as he plays regular minutes against more vulnerable defensive units.
Those skeptical of Muhammad's status as the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft should note that the methodical college game limits his impact.
The only negatives to be taken from Monday night's debut were the final score and Muhammad's conditioning. However, neither will be held against him. He remains in the mix for the title of top prospect in the land and will look to build on this performance by making a more concentrated effort against Georgia Tuesday night.
1. Exceptional Scoring Instincts
You just can't teach scoring instincts. Some guys have them. Some guys don't.
Though difficult to define, Shabazz Muhammad's scoring instincts were obvious during his debut, beginning with his first real touch of the game.
Running the floor, he caught an off-target pass on the move, used a dribble in motion to gain balance and then shot a jumper while contested from 18 feet out. He glanced at the rim for maybe a quarter-second before releasing, as if knowing its exact location the whole time.
That's called having a nose for the basket.
At one point in the second half, Muhammad manned the post, took his defender back to the basket before turning over his right shoulder and flipping one up without staring down the rim.
His feel for the hoop makes him a threat to score regardless of the defense's positioning, or the spot on the floor he's occupying.
Whether or not you're sold on Muhammad, his mind is already made up.
He was decisive with his shot selection, remaining fearless and confident when looking to score. As a perimeter threat, he was catching and shooting without hesitation. Muhammad attempted shots that he felt comfortable taking, regardless of how difficult they looked to the average first-time viewer.
His NBA ceiling projects as a go-to scorer, and no successful No. 1 option lacks confidence.
Muhammad attempted the second-most field goals on the team in only 25 minutes of action. In a more regular role playing consistent minutes, you can expect him to overtake Jordan Adams as the team's most trigger-happy scorer.
3. Must Adjust to Size, Length and IQ of Defenders
Shabazz Muhammad's second field-goal attempt was a glowing example of his unfamiliarity with the typical college defender.
In the open floor, he used a hesitation dribble on his strong side to gain momentum attacking the rim. At the high school level, this was an easy two points, considering the underwhelming size of your average 17-year-old athlete.
But Georgetown's Greg Whittington anticipated the move, beating Muhammad to the spot and preventing an attempt with his length and strength. This clearly surprised Muhammad.
On another possession, he attempted a floater that was partially tipped coming out of his hand. I can assure you, Muhammad is not used to having floaters, or any shot for that matter, being deflected off his release.
Muhammad will need to adjust to a better breed of defender and become more creative instead of relying on his pure physical advantages.
Playing against a swarming zone defense meant to eliminate mismatches, Shabazz Muhammad found a way to score 15 points on four types of made field goals.
His first was that pull-up off the dribble in the open floor, followed by an uncontested stuff at the rim.
Muhammad then converted in the post, using his size, length and instincts to score over his shoulder.
Two of his made field goals came behind the arc, catching and shooting with range and confidence.
He's a natural scorer who will remain active, which he did Monday night despite the least accommodating setting given his abrupt eligibility and difficult playing environment.
Once Muhammad finds a rhythm, we could be looking at one of the deadliest offensive forces in the game.
5. Constant in the Scoring Department
Shabazz Muhammad is going to score on a nightly basis, whether he shoots 50 percent or 20 percent.
Because of his feel for the rim and physical tools, you can't prevent him from getting buckets over a 40-minute stretch.
When he attacks the rim, the only choice defenders are given is to foul or back off, because of his sheer power and explosiveness launching his body upward. What will separate him from the pack is if that three-ball becomes a routine weapon.
The two three-pointers he nailed looked to be part of his everyday offensive repertoire. With an outside touch to complement an aggressive pursuit of the rim, Muhammad should quickly become a dynamic scoring presence.