The problem with many of the 2013 draft prospects in the top-5 isn’t Shabazz Muhammad’s problem. And that’s a compliment. The former UCLA Bruins swingman plays with a fearless offensive aggression and considering his talent, that’s enough for him to have averaged 17.9 points per game as a college freshman.
Muhammad is especially great coming off screens. The lefty has a consistent stroke while moving to get open off the ball. He also can score off his aggressive crashing of the glass. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard has a 6-foot-11 wingspan, and it’s his pointed goal of attacking the offensive glass and pushing the ball off defensive rebounds that puts him in position to score.
According to Draft Express, Muhammad was the most prolific small forward with 4.8 possessions of offense on fastbreaks, though he was second-worse in scoring there at 0.98 points per possession.
For Muhammad’s aggression being his strong suit, it’s his efficiency that is a glaring weakness. At UCLA, he scored 0.95 points per possession, which was fourth-last among small forwards, according to Draft Express. Oddly enough, it’s not that Muhammad’s shot selection was all that out of the rhythm of Ben Howland’s offense. Rather, it could be that he’s simply not that good of a shooter.
Muhammad will fight the label as a chucker rather than a high-IQ player. He also doesn’t have much of a right hand nor any moves to exactly free himself to blow by defenders.
Furthermore, Muhammad’s rank as one of the best players coming out of high school – like this year’s draft, there were hardly any stars in his recruiting class – might have created the assumption that he is an elite athlete, which he’s not. He is very strong but he’s not a above-the-rim scorer, which hurts his ability to finish around the basket in traffic and with contact.
In general, his ranking in that ‘blah’ recruiting class made his draft stock misleadingly high.
And defensively, Muhammad has ability but lacks the consistency to be relied upon at this point.
Overall, Muhammad is a talented, aggressive player but his handling of himself as a bonafide star is misleading and likely to strike him once he’s competing daily in the NBA. Hence is why his draft stock has fallen to where it should’ve been all along.
Above all the skill and efficiency question marks, Muhammad’s career will depend on his willingness to put his me-first attitude aside. While it’s great to see aggression, he must prove he’s willing – who knows if he’s able – to defer to his teammates.
The controversy over his age did little to help the aura of Muhammad. Is he someone who simply wants to get where he wants to go, or does he really want to become a legitimate NBA player?
How he fits with the Suns
Muhammad has quickly fallen from the Suns’ No. 5 position but could be around should they somehow acquire a later lottery pick. If he’s on the board and Phoenix for some reason is still looking for a scorer to put alongside – or behind – their No. 5 pick, it’s hard to say Muhammad’s instincts won’t fit well with what Jeff Hornacek is trying to do. He’ll push the ball in transition, be a capable spot-up shooter off the bat and in time could develop into a very good defender.
And as bad as his efficiency might be, Muhammad isn’t quite the ball dominating isolation player a la, so for that he’d at least get his shots within the flow of halfcourt sets.
He shot 37 percent from three-point range in college, which isn’t great but definitely shows he can become better with work.