Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 5/20/13
This week in the film room, I’m going to look at a prospect who some thought was a candidate for the top pick before the season started. Shabazz Muhammad had a bit of a disappointing season, along with his UCLA Bruin squad. Still, Muhammad showed that he is a dynamite scorer who will pack some instant offensive punch for whoever selects him next month. First, as usual, let’s take a look at what others are saying around the web. NBADraft.net: “Fierce competitor with a scorers mentality … Displays a killer instinct missing from many other prospect’s games … Uses screens to create catch-and-shoot opportunities well … Quick lefty release, solid mechanices with range out to three point territory … Can use his body to create space and get shots off near the basket … Length (6-11 + wingspan) helps him get his shot off and create post-up opportunities against smaller wings … Not afraid of contact and has the ability to get to the line at a high rate. Has trouble creating his own shot off of the dribble, shooting percentage plummets when he puts the ball on the floor … Not a fluid athlete.” DraftExpress.com: “Muhammad’s style of play is highly unconventional, as he rarely scores in isolation or pick and roll settings in the half-court, seeing just 6% of his offense in these situations. Instead, he gets most of his points leaking out in transition, moving off the ball, as a spot-up shooter, posting up relentlessly, crashing the offensive glass, and coming off short curls in the mid-range area where he’s only forced to put the ball on the floor once or twice to get all the way to the basket. He gets to the free throw line nearly seven times per-40, which is a testament to his aggressiveness and scoring instincts more than anything, as well as his ability to overpower opposing players.” Goodman/CBSSports: “Was regarded as a possible No. 1 overall pick entering the season, but there are questions. He’s been able to physically overpower guys in high school and in college, but that won’t work in the NBA. He’ll still be a solid pro due to his work ethic, but he needs to improve his lateral quickness and ability to put the ball on the floor.” Hoopshype: Shabazz had a rough ending to the season with the report coming out that he’s actually 20 instead of 19 as his father had purported. He also struggled in UCLA’s tourney loss to Minnesota shooting 6-for-18. But he’s still one of the most talented prospects in this year’s draft with a killer instinct and high-level scoring ability. He has turned living with Tourette Syndrome into a positive as he plays with a chip on his shoulder exerting a high level of intensity at all times. Detractors point to his less than 1 assist per game, labeling him one dimensional and even a “ball hog”, but in a draft devoid of talent, don’t expect him to fall very far. His character and abilities on the court could ultimately be undervalued by the time the draft takes place. Chad Ford/ESPN: “A great athlete with NBA strength, Muhammad can score from anywhere. Although he appears to be more of a one-dimensional player, he plays hard on every possession. Muhammad’s not an elite defender or a great rebounder and doesn’t really get others involved, but he’s a guy who can get you 20 points a night.” Videos: YouTube – DraftExpress YouTube Stats: 17.9 PTS, 5.2 RBS, 0.8 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.6 TO, 44.3% FG, 37.7% 3PT, 71.1% FT Past film rooms: Alex Len Nerlens Noel Alright, enough with the formalities. Let’s dive into the film. I actually studied two of Shabazz’s games this past season, at Arizona and the Minnesota tournament game, but I’m only going to use the Arizona game as it gave me a good snapshot of everything I needed. We begin with a look at Shabazz’s greatest strength, scoring the basketball. We see one-dimensional scorers all throughout the league, from the J.R. Smiths to the Jamal Crawfords to the Marcus Thorntons. Shabazz Muhammad, in my opinion, is going to be one of those players that scores and does little else. Here, we see Muhammad begin  on the left side in the low post (#15 in blue). This is a commonly used set by UCLA (at least in this game). The ball gets reversed out top, and Muhammad uses a screen to the run the baseline and curl around into the paint. Shabazz looks a tad small for a small forward (measured 6’6 1/4″ at the combine), but he plays big inside (6’11″ wingspan) with an ability to post up strong, finish inside, and grab the occasional offensive board. He uses his left as he curls toward the middle. Shabazz lets the left-handed half hook fly and buries it from 13 feet. Muhammad is left-handed. Next, we’ll see Muhammad running the baseline again. Once more, he starts on the left side, cutting to the right side. This of course allows him to make effective use of his left hand dribble. You’ll rarely see Muhammad attack from the left side with his right hand, unless it’s in transition. One of Shabazz’s greatest attributes is his skill with finding an opening and getting open when many other players can’t or won’t. This time, instead of curling, Muhammad continues his flash all the way out to the right wing. Notice the Wildcat defender overplaying the wing pass. That’s respect for Shabazz’s three-point shooting ability. Eventually, however, after the pass out top is denied, Muhammad goes back into the post. Muhammad is very comfortable with backing players down in the post. He uses his body well down there, and he rarely turns the ball over, even with the attention of the opposing team’s best defender and usually another set of eyes. As mentioned, the second Arizona defender moves over to help prevent Muhammad from going middle. Shabazz uses a powerful stride with his right leg to plant to set up his next move. Instead of turning the corner to drive to the goal, Shabazz uses a turnaround fadeaway from about 10 feet and drills it. There are not that many players in the association that are effective shooting shots like that. If he can carry that with him to the next level, he will always be able to get shots off without fear of being rejected. Another facet of Muhammad’s game that plays a big role is his work in the open court. Muhammad is quick in space and either finishes the hoop or gets to the line. Here, the Bruins get a turnover and Shabazz is running along the left side of the floor at the top of the shot. Muhammad catches and immediately looks to shake his man on a drive to the hoop. His mid-range game demands that the defender not give him space. Here, we see a step through from as he cuts across the face of his defender on a line to the hoop. Shabazz finishes off balance with his left with two in the vicinity. After watching 6-8 games of Muhammad’s this year, I can say that the most electrifying aspect of his game is what he can do inside and outside on the break. Muhammad’s defensive tendency is to hang far too close to his man. In Mike Brown’s defense, he would have a lot to learn (as do most of the Cavaliers, in truth) with respect to helping his teammates on dribble penetration and in the post. Here’s one scenario where Shabazz went Alonzo Gee and jumped the passing lane out top. Muhammad is a blur, throwing the ball out in front of him as he lunges for it on the steal. This starts a 1-on-1 sprint to the goal. Shabazz does get caught as he gathers to go up, and he goes to the foul line after missing this layup with contact. Muhammad goes to the line nearly six times per game, though he converted just 71% of his attempts. I mentioned Shabazz’s spot-up three point game, and here is an example. We see the drive and kick by the UCLA point to Muhammad, who has all day to setup in the corner here. Muhammad’s shot is one that does not have that many moving parts. He can get it off quickly, and there’s not an ounce of shyness about chucking it up. Muhammad has all day in this instance, but he’s also comfortable shooting with a hand in his face and confident enough to knock it down. Muhammad connected on nearly 38% of his three pointers and made just over one per contest. One defensive possession where Shabazz got caught not giving enough effort is highlighted below. Shot goes up from the right wing, and Muhammad fails to get in front of his man (#44 in white, Solomon Hill). Making matters worse, it’s a long rebound, and somehow Hill goes out and grabs it. Hill then squares up Muhammad before taking him to the rack, splitting two UCLA defenders and laying it in with ease. Shabazz doesn’t get squared up to take a charge or at least provide resistance. Right on through, Mr. Hill! In short, the scoring ability that Shabazz has is great (14 of 32 games, he had 20+ points and just 1 game with out double digit scoring numbers). He can score in space, he can create his own shot, he can make you pay from beyond the arc, and he has some very unique moves that I believe will translate at the next level. He’s probably going to go somewhere in the Top 10, and I don’t think that team will be disappointed with him. He won’t be a superstar, but I could see him averaging 18 points per game in the NBA at some point. Now, notice what I didn’t focus on a whole lot here. Shabazz may be able to create looks for himself, but he doesn’t look for others enough (5.8% assist percentage). His assist numbers are painfully low for a perimeter player. His defense has issues both due to size/frame/height and bad or lazy habits. Shabazz can get tough on the offensive glass (9.9% offensive rebounding percentage, top 400 in the nation) and grab the occasional offensive board, but he’s far from a good defensive rebounder. There are far too many 20 points, 3 rebound, 1 assist type games on his game log resume. If the Cavs wound up at five or six after Tuesday’s lottery, Shabazz could be the choice. It certainly fills a need at small forward. However, I consider that far less likely than I did a few months ago. Remember, he’s already 20, and he’ll be 21 within two weeks of the season starting. His ceiling has got to be a little bit lower than these 19 and 20 year olds. I’m also not crazy about some of his body language, and I wonder if he can accept being the second or third guy on a team (he took nearly 31% of the team’s shots when he was on the floor this year) that is going to have Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters who need the basketball as well. Then again, given the way he scores is different from Kyrie and Dion (isos and pick and rolls versus curls and spot-ups), maybe they could coexist offensively with success. The talk of late, however, is that Shabazz could be in a freefall in this draft. Shabazz Muhammad really struggling so far. Shots not falling and couldn’t create much in the one on ones. Did compete defensively, though. — Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 16, 2013 Until next time, the film room is closed! (Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)  
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