-This exercise doesn't paint Shabazz Muhammad in a positive light. Although it is impressive for any freshman to use 18.5 possessions per-game, Muhammad's 0.953 overall points per-possession doesn't stand out among his peer group, ranking fourth last.
Muhammad's role is what sets him apart on paper, as his play-type distribution is truly unique. Using 4.8 possessions per-game in transition, more than any other SF, Muhammad was extremely opportunistic on the break, but he scored just 0.98 points per-possession there, the second worst mark in our sample. His usage on put backs and running off screens are also extremely high relative to the sample averages, as his 2.4 and 3.5 possessions per-game in those situations are both top-two marks, but again, his efficiency in actually converting there leaves a lot to be desired. By comparison, he used an exceedingly low 1.1 combined possessions per-game on isolations and pick and rolls, offering a look into how little he was asked to create off the dribble in Ben Howland's offense.
A below average 22.6% jump shooter off the dribble but respectable 40% jump shooter off the catch, Muhammad did his best work with his feet set in spot-up situations, which accounted for his 12.5% of his offense, the lowest of any small forward prospect this season. One of the biggest enigmas in this draft, Shabazz Muhammad was prolific, but less than efficient, in a large, abnormal role.
The past six months or so haven't gone exactly according to planned for Shabazz Muhammad. From a NCAA-imposed suspension for eligibility issues, to relatively disappointing play in his freshman season, to an explosive story in the L.A. Times uncovering his age was falsified, and culminating in a first round exit from the NCAA tournament, resulting in his coach being fired Muhammad's freshman season was a real roller coaster ride.
Standing 6-6, Muhammad is perhaps an inch undersized for the small forward position his skill-set appears best suited for. His strong 223 pound frame and massive 6-11 wingspan help quite a bit, though, as it doesn't appear this is what will hold him back from finding success in the NBA.
Completing the picture in terms of his physical tools, Muhammad is a good, but not great athlete, relying more on instincts and superior strength than fantastic quickness or explosiveness, which is a bit more concerning when projecting to the NBA than his height.
Skill-wise, Muhammad is a scorer through and through, a hungry, aggressive offensive player who hunts shots and is constantly looking to put pressure on opposing defenses. He averaged 22 points per-40 minute pace adjusted, good for 16th in our top-100 rankings and third amongst freshmen, often carrying UCLA late in games to a number of important victories which helped them win the Pac-12 outright and make the conference tournament championship game.
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.
Left handed, Muhammad very rarely drives or finishes with his right, which makes him somewhat predictable in half-court settings. When he does drive right, it's almost always to spin back to his left. Because he features just an average first step, he isn't always able to get all the way to the basket before the defense recovers, making him very reliant on his ability to convert all kinds of creative and highly unconventional leaners and floaters, often from just outside the paint. Even though he shows phenomenal touch on these shots, they aren't the most high-percentage attempts you'll find, which helps explain his very pedestrian 2-point percentage (46%). He's also a fairly below the rim finisher, relying on his length and quick jumping ability more than an extremely impressive vertical leap, which likewise helps explain why he's not quite as effective in transition (.981 points per possession) as you might hope.
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.
Muhammad ranks as the second best offensive rebounding wing player in our top-100 rankings after Victor Oladipo, which is another strong indication of the tremendous hunger and competitiveness he brings to the offensive end of the floor, as well as his excellent length and frame. Strangely enough, his prowess as a rebounder doesn't translate to the other end of the floor, as he actually averaged more offensive rebounds than defensive, which is somewhat rare. Muhammad's propensity for leaking out in transition, sometimes downright cherry picking, play a role in this as well.
Generally speaking, Muhammad is not the most intense player you'll find defensively. His energy level is highly dependent on how he's faring on the other end of the court. When he misses a shot or doesn't touch the ball on a given possession he can be slow to get back on defense, and his lateral quickness appears to be just average on top of that. When Muhammad is dialed in, he can be extremely effective, though, as his combination of length, strength and aggressiveness allow him to make some very impressive plays contesting shots on the perimeter or challenging opponents inside the paint. If he can find a way to stay aggressive on every possession, there's no reason why he can't become at least a solid defender in the NBA.
Perhaps more alarming is how few assists Muhammad generated this season, just 27 in nearly 1000 minutes of action. He ranks 78th among the 81 college players in our Top-100 rankings in assists per-40, and 79th in assists per possession. The only non-big men first round picks we found in the past 10 years who averaged fewer assists per possession as a freshman or sophomore are Michael Beasley, Morris Almond, Lazar Hayward, Al Thornton, and that's it. Beasley, Hayward and Thornton played mostly at power forward before being converted to the wing in the NBA. Is Muhammad a selfish player as his poor body language occasionally suggests, or was his role as a finisher in Ben Howland's offensive simply not conducive to generating assists?
Muhammad is a very unique prospect in this draft, blessed with tremendous scoring ability and a real killer instinct, which NBA teams love. On the other hand, he has some real deficiencies in his game that he must work to correct, while the question marks about his true age and his father's heavy-handed involvement surely won't help matters either. Once considered the surefire #1 prospect in his high school class, Muhammad has work to do on and off the court during the pre-draft process to ease the concerns of NBA decision makers. But there is little doubt he has the talent to do so, and eventually carve out a long career as well.
Shabazz Muhammad (#1 Scout, #1 Rivals, #1 ESPN) made quite a statement at the HoopHall Classic, unequivocally showing once again why he's considered the #1 prospect in the 2012 high school class. Muhammad scored 37 points in a win over Dematha Catholic, regarded as one of the best teams in America, shooting 12 of 22 from the field and 12 of 14 from the free throw line.
Muhammad may not be the biggest or most athletic swingman we've seen at the high school level, but his combination of length, scoring instincts, aggressiveness and smarts gives him considerable upside and should allow him to make an instant impact in college next year.
A fairly complete offensive player, Muhammad can put up points in bunches from anywhere on the floor, both in transition or in the half-court. He attacks the rim relentlessly with his solid first step and finishes with authority whenever possible, showing good upper body strength taking hits in the paint and drawing fouls.
If the paint is closed off, Muhammad can pull up off the dribble smoothly with range out to the 3-point line, having the ability to just throw the ball in the basket thanks to his excellent touch.
Also a very effective post-up threat, Muhammad isn't afraid to go into the paint to find touches if the defense is overplaying him on the perimeter. He's a prolific offensive rebounder at the high school level thanks to his long wingspan, strong leaping ability, and the excellent intensity he brings on each possession, allowing him to find plenty of easy points simply by outworking the competition.
Muhammad still has room to grow as a ball-handler in the half-court, particularly with his ability to drive and finish with his right hand. This isn't much of an issue at the very up-tempo high school level, but is something teams could focus on in the future in advanced scouting reports. He isn't known as a great catch and shoot threat with his feet set either, something that we weren't able to see much of in this setting.
Muhammad displayed a very high basketball IQ in Springfield, rarely forcing the issue and willingly passing out of double teams when defenders inevitably collapsed on him. Unlike many players his age, he has no problem playing off the ball and doesn't get discouraged when things don't run through him on every possession, which is a very good trait.
Another thing scouts will like to see is the competitiveness Muhammad shows on the defensive end. He uses his length and strength effectively to stay in front of his matchup and contest shots, looking willing and able to make his presence felt here and on the glass.
While Muhammad may not possess the can't miss superstar upside of former #1 overall recruits such as Dwight Howard or LeBron James, his scoring instincts and physical and mental toughness make him a pretty safe bet to develop into a very good NBA player, along the lines of James Harden, for example. It's tough to rule out significant improvement considering his age and the productivity he's displayed thus far, so its likely too early to put a ceiling on him. We'll have to see what he looks like once he reaches the college ranks to get a better read for his true potential.
One of the best pure scorers in his class, Shabazz Muhammad (#3 Scout, #3 Rivals, #2 ESPN) has an outstanding knack for putting the ball in the basket, capable of doing so from anywhere on the floor. Standing 6-5 with good length and a thick frame, Muhammad is a much more athletic player than you'd expect from first glance, looking especially strong with his ability to elevate around the rim.
On the offensive end, Muhammad can score in a variety of ways, and has no problem putting up shots with a hand in his face, not being phased much by whatever defenders throw at him. He is equally capable of hitting a pull-up contested three as he is going to the basket for all sorts of runners, floaters, and reverse lay-ups, and also has a fairly advanced post game for a player his age.
Attacking off the dribble, Muhammad actually has a pretty simple but well controlled handle, getting by with his first step, long strides, and subtle moves more so than impressive advanced ball-handling. He does a great job moving without the ball to get open, receiving the ball in all areas of the court, even posting up at times.
Beyond his scoring, Muhammad doesn't consistently contribute much on the offensive end, not that surprising given how much of his team's offense he has to produce (he attempted 22 of their 56 field-goal attempts in this game). This can pose problems when his shot isn't falling, and shoring up his passing game should be a priority down the road.
Defensively, Muhammad actually puts in a high amount of effort, chasing his man well around the floor and being pretty active in man-to-man defense. He appears to have all the physical tools needed to defend the wing positions, especially with his length, and it's a good sign he already has a high effort level at this age even with his scoring prowess.
Looking forward, Muhammad's physical tools and outstanding scoring instincts make him a very intriguing prospect for the long-term. How he adjusts to a less burdensome role at the next level will be key, and finding more ways to contribute offensively should be among his priorities.
Shabazz Muhammad is one of the most intriguing long-term prospects seen at this event. It's pretty clear from watching him here that he has an excellent future ahead of him.
A pure scorer would be the best way to describe Muhammad's game. He's as aggressive and confident an offensive player as you'll find in the high school ranks. Muhammad shows a quick first step and a knack for creating his own shot and getting to the basket. He doesn't need much daylight to get his shot off and can put the ball in the rim in a variety of different ways. Left-handed, he's particularly fond of using the glass in transition. As explosive as he is around the basket, it's Muhammad's craftiness scoring in the paint that makes him stand out so much.
Floaters with either hand, smooth lefty pull-ups, crafty scoop shots, post moves, turnaround jumpers or just putting himself in the right place at the right time for an offensive rebound, Muhammad finds a way to fill up the score sheet and looks determined to do so every time he steps out on the floor. He's very business-like in the way he goes about things. He's always around the ball, and he's never afraid to step up and take responsibility when the situation calls for it.
Muhammad's aggressiveness in putting up points could rub people the wrong way at times, as he doesn't appear particularly apologetic about the way he produces on the offensive end. He tends to dribble aimlessly and force the issue at times and displays questionable shot selection. He still needs to improve his decision making and his passing ability and cut down on turnovers.