- Measurables: 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, freshman G/F from UCLA
- Key Stats: 17.9 points, 5.2 rebounds per game; 44 percent shooting, 38 percent three-point shooting.
- Projected: Late first/early second round
- Hickory High Similarity Score
Oh, Shabazz. You poor thing. What’s happened to Muhammad this draft season is nothing new, of course. Every year, and for a variety of reasons, a player or two who was once highly thought of suddenly becomes the WORST PLAYER IN AMERICA AND A DEFINITE BUST. It happened to Andre Drummond and Perry Jones last year. It happened to Jared Sullinger. There’s a long list of players who were expected to be selected near the top of the draft only to see their stock plummet as the draft neared. Sometimes those reasons turn out to be justified, sometimes they’re not. But Muhammad has most definitely become this year’s version of the ‘so overrated he might be underrated’ meme. There are certainly reasons for the Pistons to hesitate when selecting him or any of the other players potentially available at eight, of course. But at a certain point, Muhammad’s potential outweighs his risk, and I would probably argue that eighth overall in an intriguing but flawed draft might be the right spot.
Fits with the Pistons because …
Muhammad is the scoring wing the Pistons desperately need. He can create his own shot, he’s strong and can absorb contact and he’s an absolutely fearless scorer. He doesn’t have a reputation as a great perimeter shooter, but his percentages at UCLA actually weren’t that bad. He’s also a pretty good offensive rebounder for his position. The Pistons have had perimeter players the last few years who can get in the lane and finish, but can’t draw and absorb contact. They’ve also had players who can draw contact but cannot finish (Mr. Stuckey, looking in your direction). Muhammad should, theoretically, give them both of those things in one player if he’s able to realize his potential as a pro.
Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …
Ignoring all of the silly ‘motivation/character’ concerns that I tend to not pay much attention to with any player, Muhammad’s game does have some flaws. His conditioning wasn’t great at UCLA. He’s left-handed and struggles going right. And there have been reports that his workouts, particularly his shooting in those workouts, have not been great. Muhammad does get to the line at a reasonable rate, but he doesn’t make enough free throws once he gets there, hitting just 71 percent.
There are legitimate reasons to question Muhammad’s game. But that’s about as far as my concerns go. Andre Drummond was a perfect example last year. Often, impressionable young players caught up in dysfunctional programs don’t get the development and attention they need and aren’t held as accountable as they would be in a better-run program. Once Drummond got more structure, he excelled. The culture at UCLA was probably even more screwed up asthan the UConn program Drummond was a part of. For a team in the position the Pistons are, with money/flexibility to add to their roster through other means, making a high risk/high reward pick with Muhammad and betting that the structure that helped Drummond could also help him would be a good gamble.
From the Experts:
While it’s clear that Muhammad was overrated at the start of the season, it’s less clear why he’s having a hard time finding a landing spot somewhere now. He’s still a great scorer, a good offensive rebounder and plays really hard. But his flaws (no right-hand handle, trouble shooting off the bounce, so-so lateral quickness) are being blown out of proportion. Yet, this is where Muhammad is on the eve of the draft. He’s going to be playing with a very large chip on his shoulder next season.
Quick fact: Muhammad led the Pac-12 with 1.18 points per play and a 41.1 field goal percentage on guarded catch-and-shoots.
From the perimeter, Muhammad has been better than advertised this season, as his reputation coming out of high school was that of a non-shooter. He’s very good with his feet set as a catch and shoot threat, making 40% of his jumpers in this situation, which renders him a legit floor-spacer, even if his shot-selection can leave something to be desired at times. Off the dribble is another story altogether however, as Muhammad made just 12 of his 53 (23%) pull-up attempts.
While he’s wasn’t quite as effective as you might hope (13-39 from the field), Muhammad also has potential as a post-scorer, as he’s strong and skilled enough to punish similarly sized or smaller opponents in one on one situations on the block. His mature frame and relentless style of play help a lot here, and this appears to be an area in which he can continue to find success in at his position as time moves on.
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