Small Forward, 6’6″, 222 lbs.
20 years old (?)
2012-13 Stats: 17.9 PPG (44.3% FG, 71.7% FT, 37.7% 3FG), 5.2 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 1.6 TOPG
STRENGTHS: Shabazz Muhammad is a primetime scorer. Despite his youth, Muhammad shows great scoring instincts, both on the perimeter and around the basket. His jump shot has improved, and from a set position he’s quite reliable. He’s a bull down low and punishes smaller defenders. Muhammad plays with a competitive fire, and he carries that passion to the glass. It’s a rarity for players to average more offensive boards than defensive, but that’s what Muhammad did (2.7 to 2.5). He understands where to position himself and attacks the glass. Defensively, there is potential, as Muhammad boasts a 6’11″ wingspan that allows him to play longer than his height. Despite the hoopla surrounding his season at UCLA, Muhammad turned in a pretty respectable year for a freshman and led the Bruins to the NCAA Tournament.
WEAKNESSES: The first questions about Muhammad pertain to his character. There was a scandal about his age (hence the question mark above), and he was also suspended for receiving improper benefits. On the court, scouts point to Muhammad’s meager assist total and wonder if he’s a ballhog who forces too many shots. Defensively, the knock is on Muhammad’s motor and desire, which doesn’t always carry over from the offensive end. Muhammad doesn’t have the prototypical height for a small forward and he isn’t much of an athlete. His length helps, but Muhammad didn’t put up the defensive stats you’d like to see at the college level.
HOW HE’D FIT WITH THE KINGS: Muhammad would probably be best served coming off the Kings bench as he transitions to the NBA. There he could serve as the second unit’s main scorer while going against players more to his skill level. As he progresses, his movement into the starting lineup is conceivable. Offensively, if he can find a chemistry with Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans (or whoever starts at guard), Muhammad could play a huge role for the Kings. While he’s a strong spot-up shooter, he has the potential to be much more than that, taking over games as he develops at the NBA level. He may turn into a true post threat for the Kings, something the team often lacks. While Sacramento waits for his defense to grow, Muhammad can let Tyreke guard the opponent’s better wing player with Muhammad playing someone of lesser talent. With DeMarcus Cousins around, adding another player with character concerns is a risk, but the hope is new management can get the best out of every player on the roster.
SCOTT - Yes. To me, Muhammad is a prime candidate to be a better pro than a collegian. His role at UCLA required him to shoulder more of the scoring load than he probably should have as a freshman. And he did a damn good job. With more talent around him in the NBA, I think he can slide comfortably into a supporting role. His ability to score the ball is rivaled by very few at the college level, and for this I think he’s worthy of the Kings selection.
BRYANT WEST - No, but it’s a very hesitant no. I see the benefits from taking Muhammad — he could become the best scorer in the draft, and I agree with Scott that he’ll be a better pro than he was in college — but everything about Muhammad’s game screams redundant to me given the Kings roster. He’s a ball hog (29.8% usage rate and a truely depressing 5.8% assist percentage) with a mediocre true shooting percentage (52.8%) who struggles defensively and comes in with character concerns. Add in the fact that he’d be a short small forward (6’6) and the negatives outweigh the benefits.
WHERE HE GOES: Muhammad is a guy who could really interest teams with some impressive workouts — or his risks could turn lottery teams off completely. While everyone is looking for a No. 1 scoring option, risk taking in the lottery can get GMs fired. The Suns (5) and Hornets (6) may take a gander. After the Kings, the T-Wolves (9) and Mavericks (13) could use wing scoring, and the Bucks (15) have a wealth of big men with underwhelming wings. It’s a true crapshoot predicting where Muhammad will go, as he could skyrocket or freefall depending on the next few weeks.
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