NBA Draft Analysis and Breakdown of UCLA Star Shabazz Muhammad

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NBA Draft Analysis and Breakdown of UCLA Star Shabazz Muhammad
USA TODAY Sports

Shabazz Muhammad is auditioning with NBA teams for a top scoring position.

A consensus top-two national recruit, scouts have had their eyes on Muhammad since his early days in high school.

However, he's become one of the more controversial prospects in the field, drawing criticism as a team player and for an age discrepancy that makes him older than we thought. Muhammad's draft stock has steadily declined throughout the year, but nobody can argue with his production at UCLA.

He averaged 17.9 points per game in a system that makes it very difficult to do so.

 

Physical Tools

Muhammad measured just over 6'6'' in shoes at the combine, a number that has some scouts worried. The small forward position is evolving, with bigger and more athletic wings like Paul George setting the bar.

He did measure a 6'11'' wingspan, a big-time number for a 2 or 3.

Despite a top-heavy body, Muhammad is light on his feet and moves extremely well around the court. He has the foot speed to face up or make sharp cuts off the ball.

He's not the most explosive athlete in the world, but he's got a relentless motor that helps maximize his physical tools. Muhammad's combination of power and finesse also makes him a scoring threat from every spot on the floor.

 

On-Ball Offense

Muhammad has the desire to be a primary offensive scoring option. He wants the ball on every possession, whether it's coming off a curl or in isolation on the wing.

With the ball in his hands, Muhammad is a multidimensional threat. He excellent scoring instincts which help him navigate through a defense and show him the easiest route for points.

Muhammad's very first shot-attempt at UCLA tells you all you need to know. Muhammad caught the ball, took a dribble and without making eye contact with the rim, stopped on a dime before rising and firing.

Muhammad knows where the rim is at all times. He has a feel for the game that can't be taught.

Facing the rim, he's shifty off the dribble and can get into the lane and score on the move. Muhammad has the agility and touch inside to elude defenders and finish with finesse.

He's more effective off the ball as a spot-up threat and a slasher. But with an angle to attack and room to operate, teams can give the rock to Muhammad and watch him go to work.

 

Off-Ball Offense

Muhammad's ability to play off the ball is more impressive than his ability to create on it.

As an off-ball scorer, Muhammad is active and moves with purpose. He desperately wants the ball whenever he comes out of a route.

He's an excellent slasher who can make diagonal cuts through the lane and finish using angles. Once he catches the ball on the move, Muhammad shows tremendous body control and the ability to finish after contact.

His favorite shot is his one-handed push shot. Muhammad has a great feel for the ball and can turn tough angles into easy scoring opportunities with the ability to separate and release with one hand.

Muhammad is also a reliable three-pointer shooter, finishing his freshman year with a respectable 37.7 percent mark. He has sweet rhythm as a catch-and-shoot shooter, stepping into his shots and rising with balance.

Because of his accuracy spotting up, Muhammad can stretch the floor and provide a target for his point guard in the drive and dish game.

 

Weaknesses

While being a lefty is an advantage, Muhammad's right hand is weak. Rarely does he use it off the dribble. Teams that have forced him to do so have contained his scoring for most of the game.

Another glaring weakness is creating separation as a perimeter scorer. He doesn't have that step-back mid-range jumper or pull-up long-range three-ball that the top NBA scorers have at their disposal.

But what scouts hate the most is his inability to make those around him better. He averaged less than one assist per game, which has a lot to do with his inability to create off the dribble.

Looking at the numbers, Muhammad appears to be a one-dimensional scorer who doesn't pass or rebound.

He needs work defensively as well, as he's prone to getting beat on the perimeter by quicker guards.

 

Draft Breakdown and NBA Outlook

Where Should Shabazz Muhammad get Drafted?

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The good news for Muhammad's draft stock is that there are a number of teams in the market for a scorer on the wing.

Despite all the negativity surrounding his outlook, there's still a good chance he goes top 10 to a team like Detroit at No. 8, Minnesota at No. 9 or Portland at No. 10.

He's long, aggressive and can put the ball in the basket. The only question is whether his formula for doing so will work at the next level. I'd give him a ceiling that resembles Michael Redd or Latrell Sprewell with a basement looking something more like C.J. Miles.

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