Sports Out West

NBA Draft 2013: Is Shabazz Muhammad a good fit for Blazers?

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The 2013 NBA draft is just a few weeks away and many experts are speculating on where Shabazz Muhammad will land.  In their mock draft, Comcast SportsNet expects the Portland Trail Blazers to take Muhammad as the tenth overall pick. 

Muhammad’s story this past season has been well documented.  He was the second ranked player coming out of high school just behind Nerlens Noel.  The nations elite schools recruited him: Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas, but he chose to attend UCLA.  His freshman season was immediately wrought with scandal as he was initially ruled ineligible, then declared eligible and then mid way through the season it was discovered that he was in fact 20 years old and not the 19-year old freshman that everyone believed.  All this, paired with a subpar performance at the NBA combine has Muhammad’s draft stock taking a deep-dive.  At the start of the season, Muhammad was a projected top 3 pick for the 2013 draft and many now are saying he has fallen towards the lower end of the lottery.  As a tenth pick, Portland would be wise to pick up Muhammad.  His talent warrants it.

Aside from LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, Portland lacks offensive productivity and can use the additional offensive prowess that Muhammad can provide.  Per ESPN, Portland ranked 15th in the NBA this past season in points per game at 97.5, 16th in field goal percentage at 44.8% and 20th in 3 point field goals at 35.3%.  In his lone season at UCLA, Muhammad averaged 17.5 points per game, scored in double figures in 31 of his 32 games and scored over 20 points in 14 games.  However, Muhammad would need to work on developing team chemistry with Aldridge and Lillard to earn his playing time.  Although Muhammad had the second best turnover ratio in the Pac-12 of 8.6%, he averaged just 0.8 assists per game with UCLA.  These conflicting stats are alarming and really speak to selfish play.

Muhammad believes he would be a good fit for the organization and would complement Aldridge and Lillard.  He spoke with The Oregonian following the draft combine to discuss how he would fit amongst the Portland roster:

“I’ve talked with Damian (Lillard), I know LaMarcus (Aldridge) is a good guy, and they have (Nic) Batum at the three. I feel like I could really fit well with their program, and I think they are looking for a guy who can do a lot of things like me.”

One of the biggest questions surrounding Muhammad is the position he would play in the NBA.  Most experts have him listed as a small forward, while others are listing him as a shooting guard.  As a small forward, Muhammad is slightly undersized at 6’6, but has a vast wingspan measuring 6’11.  He weighs 222 pounds, which will help him penetrate to the basket in the NBA.  His speed and agility are cause for concern.  Muhammad’s max vertical was 37 inches and his speed drills were mediocre with a 3.32 time in the ¾ court.  With this lack of athleticism, Muhammad must find other ways to score. His offensive ability is suggestive of a shooting guard, but his wingspan and speed are more telling of a small forward.

Muhammad attempted to answer this very question at the combine:

“I have a preference for playing the two-guard.  I think I can be one of the tallest guys playing the two. I was out here with the three’s today and I have some good size for that position but I think if I’m a two, I can do a lot of damage at the guard position.”

The Blazers need a capable scorer to come in off the bench next season and Muhammad can be an offensive threat to accompany Aldridge and Lillard.  Muhammad will likely be the most talented offensive player available at the tenth pick and Portland would be wise to pick him up.  Portland’s biggest challenge will be transitioning Muhammad into more of a team player.

 Photo Credit: Bryan Horowitz/Wikimedia Commons

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Brianna Brooks

Brianna Brooks is a freelance journalist from Washington state currently living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has written for Yahoo! Sports as well as Zagaholic.com, a blog site dedicated to Gonzaga University basketball. Although knowledgeable about many sports (college basketball, NFL, MLB, and horse racing) her true passion lies with the Gonzaga Bulldogs.