UCLA Basketball: 5 Best NBA Draft Scenarios for Shabazz Muhammad
After taking his first stretch of games at UCLA to acclimate to the college game, freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad has proved to live up to the hype.
The 6’6” slasher has been a dominant force for the Bruins so far and has been their go-to player in clutch situations.
Muhammad has extinguished all the doubts concerning his abilities to be an excellent college player after an NCAA investigation and a lack of fitness halted his collegiate career.
Not only has Muhammad been UCLA’s No. 1 scorer from the very beginning (currently averages 18 points per game), but he has also demonstrated an unrivaled ability to take over a game, as he displayed in the Bruins’ upset of Arizona.
Unfortunately for UCLA, the one-and-done culture of college basketball suggests that Muhammad will pack up his bags and declare for the NBA Draft this spring, which may not be the best decision for his development as a player but will be the likely outcome.
At his current rate, Muhammad will be an early first-round pick, which suggests he’ll be selected to a rebuilding franchise.
Let’s take a look at which NBA teams Shabazz would best be suited for out of the realistic group of teams that would have a chance to draft him.
As awful as the Bobcats have been in recent times, they have an excellent group of young players, including Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who have the potential to make for an impressive team if they can find a solid big man
Nevertheless, Charlotte is last in the Eastern Conference for the time being (11-33) and doesn’t appear to be on the rise this season. However, it will be a likely recipient of a high first-round pick, which may be used on Muhammad if the franchise can’t sign an appealing big man like Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel.
Muhammad and Kidd-Gilchrist on the same team would be a force to be reckoned with, as the UCLA freshman is often compared to the one-and-done Kentucky forward Kidd-Gilchrist in terms of his explosiveness and his ability to find open jump-shots.
Shabazz would also harmonize well with Kemba Walker, as they are both players who can shoot from nearly anywhere on the court but are practically unstoppable when driving down the lane.
The Cavs have been abysmal since LeBron James made "The Decision" to take his talents from Cleveland to South Beach.
However, they have picked up some promising young stars in the past few years like Tyler Zeller and Kyrie Irving. Muhammad would fit in perfectly with that group as a small forward and would also be available to move to shooting guard to fill in for Dion Waiters.
As impressive as he has been at the college level, Muhammad hasn't been as dominant as expected, but he has shown great potential as an all-around offensive player (his defense could use some fine-tuning) and would be the type of scorer for the Cavs that could resurrect the franchise.
Again at the bottom of the Eastern Conference (13th, 13-33), Cleveland is on pace to receive another early first-round draft pick, and Muhammad is just what they need to round off their roster of young stars.
As much as the Timberwolves have improved in the past few years with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio at the helm, they are still lingering in the bottom of the Western Conference (12th, 17-24).
While they probably won’t jump much higher in the standings this season unless they can get Ricky Rubio back in a groove after his injury (and get Kevin Love and Brandon Roy back on the court), they are on their way to another high draft pick.
Muhammad would fit in particularly well with the Timberwolves’ core group of young players including former Arizona forward Derrick Williams, Love, and Rubio.
Assuming Love will be healthy for next season after a hopefully successful rehab of his hand, he would be a perfect complement to Muhammad’s game.
Minnesota has Love consistently setting high ball screens, which would find open shots for Muhammad and allow him explosive drives down the lane if Love’s defender bites on the screen.
New Orleans Pelicans
Although David Stern thought he had the best interest of the New Orleans Hornets in mind when he vetoed a trade that would have sent Pau Gasol to the team, bringing guard Eric Gordon in from the Clippers hasn’t done much to resurrect the team from the bottom of the standings.
Even after drafting star forward Anthony Davis out of Kentucky in last year’s draft, the Hornets (who will be branded as the Pelicans next season) are tied for last place in the Western Conference (15-30) and should consequently be dished a good draft pick this year.
Muhammad would be a good fit for New Orleans’ young team, which also includes Duke’s one-and-done guard Austin Rivers. If Muhammad is drafted to the team after his freshman season at UCLA, he would fill the team’s void at small forward.
Davis is an unselfish player with enormous potential to be an NBA star within a few years, and he, Muhammad and Rivers would be excellent players on which to shape the Hornets’ rebuilding franchise.
While they may not be located in Sacramento next season and will probably be relocated to Seattle, the Kings are the NBA's most promising young team and would be an ideal fit for Muhammad.
Although there are plenty of teams with promising young stars like the aforementioned teams, the Kings have the deepest roster of talented young stars that includes bigs like DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson.
With sensationally crafty point guard Isaiah Thomas bringing the ball up the court and Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton at the 2, all the Kings need is a strong small forward like Muhammad to complete their roster.
Muhammad is the kind of player who thrives in a fast-paced offense, and he would see plenty of baskets in transition with the Kings.
As good of a player as Shabazz Muhammad is, he would be much better off refining his game for at least one more year in college.
He is one of the best freshmen that UCLA has ever seen, but he has a much better chance of etching his legacy into Bruins history next season by resurrecting the program with a deep NCAA tournament run, which doesn't seem likely this season given the Bruins' recent track record.
Nevertheless, he will be an excellent player at whichever level he chooses to play at next year and will be a much-coveted draft pick this June should he decide to declare himself eligible.
It's too early to start associating him with NBA greats like Kobe and LeBron, but Muhammad has shown impressive potential that may spark that conversation in a few years.
However, he'll worry about beating Washington next Thursday for now.