Oklahoma City Thunder: Hard to tell if Shabazz Muhammad is on OKC's radar

The 6-foot-6, 222-pound Shabazz Muhammad averaged 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds as a freshman at UCLA, but off-court matters have clouded his draft status.
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: June 16, 2013
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photo - UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad reacts after making a 3-point shot against Missouri in overtime of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. UCLA won 97-94 in overtime. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad reacts after making a 3-point shot against Missouri in overtime of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012. UCLA won 97-94 in overtime. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Muhammad was national player of the year coming out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas and was viewed as the pending No. 1 draft pick for 2013. Now he is seen as a fringe lottery selection (top 14).

Projecting how well Muhammad will fare in the NBA ranges from him being the next James Harden to being the next Michael Beasley — which are both left-handed compliments.

Muhammad is viewed by some as a “tweener,” caught between the small forward and shooting guard positions.

“I would not take Muhammad in the first round at all, and reason No. 1 is his skill level,” wrote former Oklahoma State standout Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports. “He's a 6-foot-5 small forward who is a very average athlete with some ‘old man body' to him. Muhammad is too small to play as he always has if he wants to play the position in the NBA. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Luol Deng and Klay Thompson are all bigger and more athletic three-men. If he's too small to play his usual position and not athletic enough to make up for the lack of size and skill, where does that leave him?”

As for the comparison to Harden, Muhammad told Rome: “He's not the fastest guy out there or the tallest, but with his dribbling moves and hesitation moves he has a lot of stuff that keeps a defense off-balance. That's one thing I'm really trying to have in my game. That's one thing that can really make me a better NBA player.”

Muhammad recently said he has distanced himself from others.

“I'm going to speak for myself now,” Muhammad said. “I was a guy who just used to play basketball and let some of my guys talk for me, family members, but right now I'm more mature as a person. I'm going to talk for myself. I think that's the right way to do it.”


Editor's note

As part of the James Harden trade with Houston last October, the Thunder obtained the No. 12 overall selection in the June 27 NBA Draft via Toronto. We look at 12 potential candidates the Thunder might consider taking with that No. 12 pick.

Today: UCLA small forward Shabazz Muhammed

SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 225

Birth date: Nov. 13, 1992

Hometown: Las Vegas

School: UCLA

Class: Freshman

2012-13 stats: 30.8 mpg; 17.9 ppg; 5.2 rpg; 0.8 apg; .443 FG; .711 FT

Strengths: Powerfully built and offers a post-up presence. Natural scorer, who has the ability to be prolific. Solid rebounder and good in transition. Strong slasher and finisher. High intensity and plays hard. Extremely aggressive. Quicker than you think.

Weaknesses: Viewed by many to be selfish. Left-hand dominant to a fault. Often considers defense to be an optional task. Consistently inconsistent. Streaky. Not extremely athletic. Is he a small forward or shooting guard? Outside shot needs development.

How he could help the Thunder: Similar build to James Harden, including being left-handed, but plays a different game. Could make an impact with his scoring and rebounding, but would need a serious attitude adjustment to fit in well with the Thunder.

Projections: No. 8 (cbssports.com); No. 9 (draftexpress.com); No. 15 (si.com); No. 16 (espn.com; hoopshype.com); No. 17 (nbadraft.net)

Quotable: “I knew they were going to go over those questions (surrounding the NCAA investigation). I just wanted to get them out of the way so they can know what's really going on. A lot of people speculate how bad I am as a player, but I really cleared it up and I'm also happy to get that stuff and can't wait to do the other interviews. I'm telling them everything, just telling them the truth. I'm a good kid. I'm here to play basketball and here to make a team really win.” — Muhammad at last month's draft combine

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