May 16, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Shabazz Muhammad is interviewed during the NBA Draft combine at Harrison Street Athletics Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft 2013: Should the Wizards Gamble on Shabazz Muhammad? (Jeffrey Poirier Q&A)

(Even though the Washington Wizards received the third overall pick in last nights NBA Draft Lottery, I think it’s safe to say that they’ll explore all  of their options. With that said, UCLA’s enigma, Shabazz Muhammad, is one of the most intriguing prospects in this years NBA Draft. I contacted Jeff Poirier of Go Joe Bruin, who has covered the UCLA Bruins for quite some time, in order to get his take on the possible situation.)

I have to start with this: Shabazz Muhammad was viewed as a basketball prodigy out of Bishop Gorman High School, but his reputation took a serious hit once he reached the collegiate level. He’s been accused of lying about his age, allowing his father to control his basketball career, but most importantly, he had a tendency to act like a diva once he stepped on the basketball floor. How will his attitude affect his stock in this year’s draft, if at all? Should a team like Washington, who has dealt with plenty of knuckleheads in the past, take a chance on Muhammad?

The rumors swirling about Muhammad’s attitude will definitely affect his draft appeal, but he’s still a highly sought after option. He had a few moments that drew ire at UCLA, most notably steering clear of a Bruins pig-pile after a teammate (and not him) sank a game-winning buzzer beater. Ultimately though, Shabazz is a stone cold gamer who will be an asset to whatever team takes him. Washington would be getting a lights-out shooter with an unrelenting competitive edge. The millions he’ll be making will likely iron out any personality issues he may have, so I think he is worth the chance.

What are some common misconceptions people have about Shabazz Muhammad? He’s been criticized about having a scorers mentality, but not contributing much on the defensive side of the floor. Even though Muhammad averaged under 1 assist per game, some think his lackluster year at UCLA was a reflection upon the program and basketball system, rather than Muhammad’s style of play. Is he as selfish as people tend to think? Is he the type of player who will eventually develop his defense once he enters the next stage of his career?

Having attended every UCLA home game last season, I can attest to the fact that Shabazz is not a defensive player. He was often beat by a less athletic opponent with more hustle, which doesn’t bode well for him guarding the best-of-the-best in the NBA. With that said, there’s no telling what could happen once he gets to the league. The pressure of living up to his contract could drive him to develop his defense, and he is athletic enough to be a good shot blocker. Offensively, there’s no question that his intention is to score whenever he gets the ball. Whether it’s a catch-and-shoot or drive to the rim, Muhammad isn’t going to pass very often. Some call that selfishness, but I just think it’s how his game works. He has a consistent outside stroke, and he is most valuable putting the ball in the bucket.

Is Shabazz Muhammad worth the investment? Should a lottery bound team, like the Wizards, take a chance on Muhammad, even though they are entering the latter half of their rebuilding process?

My answer here is “it depends.” If the Wizards are in need of an ice-cold perimeter shooter, than Shabazz is certainly worth the investment. He can pour it on from long range, and should only get better as he refines his attack. However, if they’re looking for a well-rounded player who will contribute at both ends of the floor, Shabazz is not the solution.

Where do you see Muhammad being taken in this year’s draft? Will he eventually renter the top 5 pick discussion, or will his affected image ultimately lower his stock?

Some mock drafts still have Muhammad in the Top 10, and I think that’s where he will end up. It’s possible he could sneak back into the first five, but there are a lot more established names up there as well. It comes down to need. Whichever lottery team most needs a shooter, that’s where Shabazz will probably go. His image issues hurt him, but not enough for him to drop that much. His raw ability is too great to pass up for long.

Shabazz Muhammad was compared to some all-time basketball greats out of High School. Since he was fairly disappointing in his time in UCLA, his comparisons began to falter. In your opinion, which NBA player does Muhammad most resemble?

It may seem crazy to compare an unproven prospect to a future Hall of Famer, but I think Muhammad most resembles Ray Allen. As a Boston Celtics fan, I have some mixed emotions about Allen, but there’s no doubting he is one of the best spot-up shooters in the history of the NBA. Muhammad is obviously not there, but he is at his best in catch-and-shoot situations. Like Allen, Muhammad likes to roam around the three-point line, looking for a little space to make his opponents pay. Shabazz has the clutch gene, and he could become a star with his outside stroke alone.

Is Shabazz Muhammad the type of player the Wizards could potentially form a big three with, along side John Wall and Bradley Beal, or will Muhammad become just another volume shooter in the NBA?

If my last few answers weren’t evidence enough, Shabazz will contribute as a shooter. And based solely on his short UCLA career, that’s about all he brings to the table. He doesn’t have much ability off the dribble, and he hasn’t proven to be a team player yet. However, he is talented and athletic enough to be a bona-fide superstar, and there is definitely “Big Three” potential there. If he finds the right fit with his new team, he could easily become a franchise player within a couple years.

Lastly, give us your final take on Shabazz Muhammad and his future in the NBA.

I’ve spoken to many Bruins fans about their perception of Muhammad, and most say his tenure in Westwood will be forgotten. Though his scoring numbers were insane, UCLA was wildly inconsistent (often losing in ugly fashion) and exited the Big Dance with little more than a whimper. For that reason, he’ll just be another one-and-done in the memories of UCLA fans, even if he goes on to become an All-Star in the NBA. That probably doesn’t mean much to the Wizards fans reading this, but it’s all I can think about as a Bruins blogger. Nonetheless, I still believe Shabazz is going to be a big time player in the NBA. Whether or not that happens immediately remains to be seen, but I think he will develop as time goes on. He has a professional approach to the game, and that showed during his time at UCLA. In my mind, he’s worth the gamble for Washington, especially with John Wall running the point. That could be quite the pairing if the Wizards choose to take him.

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I think it’s quite evident that based on Jeff Poirier’s evaluation of Shabazz Muhammad, he would likely be a good fit in Washington. Although I think the Wizards should still have their eyes set on Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Muhammad will undoubtedly remain a question mark throughout this whole process.

Please give Go Joe Bruin a follow on Twitter. I want to thank Jeff for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Hopefully this helped shed some light on Muhammad and his possible fit with Washington.

 

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