Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 6/18/13
What will the Bobcats do with the No. 4 overall pick in next month's NBA draft? This is the third of a five-part series looking at why Charlotte should and why it shouldn't take some of the top prospects available: C.J. McCollum, PGSG, Senior, Lehigh 2012-13 stats: 23.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists Why McCollum? The trend has been established: volume-scoring mid-major guard leads his respective school to unprecedented heights before moving on to the NBA and showing the jump in competition isnt all that steep. Stephan Curry and Damian Lillard pulled it off this seamlessly and its impossible not to wonder if McCollums next in line. Their collegiate numbers are similar. Now, the primary question that hounded Curry and Lillard is the same McCollum faces in the 2013 draft. Can he play point guard or is he too much of a tweener? Curry and Lillard both showed the concerns to be inane. The leagues moved more towards a scoring point guard in recent years and there's no denying McCollums numbers or his ridiculous performance that downed Duke in one of the NCAA Tournaments craziest first round upsets. So much of the time we look at what a player cant do or what he could potentially do in the future, rather than what theyre able to do right now. And right now, McCollums arguably the craftiest and most intelligent guard in this class. Combine that with ideal size (6-foot-3) with a 6-foot-6 wingspan and he's got the tools to compete immediately. You have to love the way he changes speeds and direction off the dribble and no one outside of Trey Burke has a comparable crossover in this class. While hes not an elite athlete vertically, he does a tremendous job of getting into a defenders chest to create space to finish at the rim. Its a pick-and-roll league and McCollum is extremely heady in his attack. He is an excellent rebounder for a guard, and hes shown signs of becoming a dead-eye shooter, too, checking in at 52 percent last season on 64 attempts from deep (5.3 attempts per game) before a broken foot sidelined him for the remainder of the year. Theres too much to like in his game for the Bobcats not to give him a look at No. 4. Why not McCollum? The Lillard comparisons seem to float out there every time McCollum is mentioned, but outside of playing at mid-major schools and having a pro-ready body, the comparisons should stop there. Lillard possesses a first step and athleticism to his game that McCollum doesn't come close to matching. Theyre just totally different players. Stephen Curry should be the mold McCollum looks to emulate. McCollum has the scorers mentality like Curry, and while he isnt near as a dynamic of a shooter, he shows a similar craftiness off the dribble that Curry uses to free himself. Where McCollum can really improve his stock is if he shows that he is capable of defending shooting guards in the NBA. If he can do that, hed be a natural fit for the Bobcats. They needs a combo guard once Ramon Sessions' contract is up after this upcoming season, and McCollum would be the scorer they need at shooting guard. However, he's smallish for the two spot and although hes extremely active defensively, that frame mixed with average lateral quickness makes you question whether hell be able to stay in front of NBA guards. Thats the danger with McCollum: Is he an NBA tweener who could mask his size and quickness in college? That concern alone makes McCollum a risky selection for the Bobcats, especially considering the limited scope of his junior season shooting. He did shoot 52 percent from three a season ago, but that was only through 12 games. The three seasons prior he shot 34, 32 and 42 percent, respectively, with his best mark coming as a freshman. That inconsistency combined with the fact that hes three months from 23 years old lead you to believe hes much closer to a finished product than a lot of the players ahead of him on the draft board. Does the risk of taking another tweener outweigh the chance of potentially missing out on the next Curry or Lillard? Thats the question Charlotte has to ask themselves when evaluating McCollum at this pick. To me theres more Mario Chalmers to his game than Damian Lillard -- thats hard to justify with the 4th pick. Eastern Conference Scouts Take I love how smart McCollum is and the way he attacks off the pick-and-roll. Hes got the body to step in and play right away, but hes the classic tweener. Tweeners make me nervous enough, but guards who dont have a set position set off the red light even more. I think hell be fine on the offensive end and can at least be a solid bench scoring combo for someone, but Im not sure hes anyones point guard of the future. His passing leaves a lot to be desired and hes an average athlete for a guard at the pro level. Hes more of an 8-12 pick type for me, not top five. I dont think hell ever be a star but he can help someone. Shabazz Muhammad, SF, Freshman, UCLA 2012-13 stats: 17.9 points, 5.2 rebounds Why Muhammad? Shabazz Muhammad is currently getting the Harrison Barnes treatment. Arrive to college with Kevin Durant-level expectations, have a great freshman year but still get crushed by the media for underachieving. As the college basketball recruiting world has exploded, so have the expectations. In what world has averaging 18 points per game as a freshman ever been a season that falls short? Somehow thats the reality we now live in, a college basketball world created by an NBA age limit that burdens top-ranked players to perform at a level seen maybe once in a decade. Thats part of the reason Muhammads not only the most polarizing figure of this draft but also the one with the biggest question marks. Hes been tagged as having red flags. Red flags for seeming upset that he didnt get the last shot in a mid-February game against Washington. Red flags for his dad fudging his age to make him a year younger than he truly is. Red flags for his fathers indictment on federal bank fraud charges. Red flags for a newspaper profile of his father that makes him seem like the overzealous sports dad who forced his kid to live out his fathers dream. In other words, red flags that have absolutely nothing to do with his ability to put the ball in the basket -- something Muhammad has always done at an elite level. The Bobcats simply have to give Muhammad a look. There is no bigger need in this draft than finding a scorer. Offensive alpha males -- the type who can get a bucket when you need it and who cant hide their disgust when their not given the burden of the last shot -- are rare. Muhammad is that player and thats the type the Bobcats have desperately missed. Call him selfish if you want, but no one in this class can match the ferocious, aggressive scorer's mentality Muhammad has. Theres also the thought that Muhammads simply a product of early maturation, making a living off of being physically stronger and more developed than his peers. But Muhammads long and strong even by NBA small forward standards, possessing a 6-foot-11 wingspan at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, and the NBA game fits his game more than Ben Howlands system at UCLA did. Combine that with Muhammads competitiveness and its impossible to ignore the room for development. What if he develops a mid range game so he doesnt have to force those one-handed runners in traffic? What if he has shooters to space the floor and is allowed to get out in transition more? What if that jump shot, which has pure form, becomes consistent? Sure, hes a below average passer. Sure, hes essentially a left hand-dominant, straight-line driver. Sure, he forces shots and doesnt have much of a mid-range game yet. But what does that say about his talent that theres all those areas to improve on offensively in the halfcourt and he still averaged 18 per? A great deal, in my opinion. He could become the volume scorer theyve been in search of that you can start to build around. Why not Muhammad? Will Muhammad ever develop into a shooting guard? Probably not, so itd be tough for the Bobcats to take him here with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the roster. Muhammads handle is shaky for a two guard and he doesnt do a great job of moving laterally on defense, so its unlikely you could ever play the two together. His competitiveness and desire to win fits with Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker, but if the Bobcats are going to go wing with this pick, surely theyll go with a shooter here or at least someone who creates for their teammates. Muhammad isnt known for either. The real question with Muhammad, though: Has he peaked? His first step is not particularly explosive and he doesnt change directions or speed often or well off the dribble. That can be countered with a mid-range jumper, but Muhammad doesnt have that yet. The lack of an in-between game gets exposed in the pros and its hard to see a rookie Muhammad bullying smaller defenders in the post the way he was able to in college. Hes an elite offensive rebounder off his misses, too, but thatll be tougher to come by as well. There are plenty of questions about Muhammad -- both deserved and not. Couple those questions with a lack of roster fit and its hard to think that one of the drafts top scorers will be in play here, regardless of the need for points in Charlotte. Eastern Conference Scouts Take This is the guy who you never get the same opinion on. Ive heard people say anything from top-five talent to wouldnt touch him in the top 20. My main problem with his game is he shows no ability to go right. Even when he goes right, hes always going to work his way back left. That wont work. Hes got other deficiencies as a driver, too -- he doesnt have a great first step, doesnt exploit the pick-and-roll like someone with his size and athleticism should, and doesnt have a variety of moves in his arsenal. But I do think people underestimate his athleticism. I really like how smoothly and quickly he jumps off one leg on the break and hes got great length to finish. If he gets any right side and a mid-range game to go with his spot-up jumper and post-up game, he could be really good. Hes not a great shooter on the move, but he can really shoot it when he spots up. And at the end of the day, I love kids with his demeanor. That killer instinct and competitiveness makes up for so many deficiencies. A lot of people dont like him but I think hell develop because hes got that rage about the way he plays.
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