Here at GJB, we’ve been looking at the draft prospects of our own UCLA football players. We now get ballsy by looking at the 2013 NBA draft, and where some of our UCLA Bruins are projected to be this time next year.
First up? Consensus No. 1 2013 recruit Shabazz Muhammad.
Where do numerous mock drafts have him? He’s alternating between the first and second pick in the draft, with center Nerlens Noel out of Kentucky being his dance partner here.
Shabazz Muhammad is often compared to James Harden with some pundits and fans reaching, saying he could compare to Kobe Bryant at the next level. Although the latter is definitely reaching, Kobe Bryant wasn’t expected to be Kobe Bryant when he was drafted out of high school.
But it’s not impossible, that Muhammad proves to be the NBA’s next great 2-guard, allowing for a nice transition from Michael Jordan, to Kobe, to Shabazz.
That said, most of this will be determined in the upcoming 2012-13 college basketball season. The team has to go a long way to become a national contender, and the talent has UCLA halfway there. The success of the team and Shabazz Muhammad’s success will go hand-in-hand.
Of course, it’s possible that Muhammad could wind up dropping his stock this upcoming season. Kyle Anderson will be UCLA’s primary ball-handler and Larry Drew II might be the Bruins’ secondary ball-handler with Shabam playing off the ball more than you’d like to believe. He may not get to showcase fully his ability to create his own shots on a consistent basis, but considering UCLA doesn’t have very many perimeter players who can do so — with Kyle and Shabazz being the only ones, thus far — it’s likely Shabazz will have given NBA scouts enough of a sample size.
Plus, NBA teams are drafting more and more based on potential, rather than concrete evidence. So if Shabazz can have dominant games in which he does primarily create his own shots and shots for others, the dude can go high in the draft.
But what does Shabazz do well? Well, quite a bit, for a 2-guard. The dude can attack the paint with aggression, shoot from the perimeter, create his own shot off the dribble and even post up on smaller players. At 6’6” and 220 pounds, he’s exactly what you’d want in a next-level shooting guard. He uses his size a bit more in the paint than James Harden — his apparent doppleganger — does in the NBA, and in that regard, he’s more comparable to Kobe.
But he’s a smart scorer who isn’t “OMFREAKINGGOSH, DID HE JUST”-type of athleticism that Kobe possessed as a young, cocky 18-year old.
The other comparison is James Harden, and his scouting reports out of college knocked on his athleticism, while Shabazz’s reports say he’s athletic, just not that athletic.
It’s fair to note, though, that out of high school, a rather infamous scouting report on Kobe Bryant didn’t exactly rave on about his athleticism. From LakersGround.net:
Strengths- Kobe’s number one stregth is his maturity. He is a lot more
mature than a lot of the college players and some NBA players as well.
This is a huge asset because he isn’t going into this without thinking
like some people might think. Extremely intelligent player and student.
Sees the floor very well because of his height and is an excellent
finisher. Knows the game of basketball and what needs to be done to win
(won the state championships without his point guard and top outside
shooter). Is a true leader who often dominated games with triple teams
most of the time. Can hit from three with accuracy (good %). Fierce
competitor with a lot of determination. Played all 5 positions in high
school so he can also work down low. Has perfected the turn around
fall-away jumper (Jordan’s tradmark) A lot of people think he doesn’t
like to lift to bulk up but he’ll do whatever it takes to make it in the
So if you’d took a look at the scouting reports on Muhammad and compared them to the one on Kobe above when he came out of high school, the phrases “desire to be the best,” “highly determined” and “his competitive nature is contagious” are matches. They also like his athleticism more than they liked Harden’s athleticism. Even further, one report states he has “electrifying athleticism.”
So although tagging Shabazz as the next Kobe is a stretch — he’s only 18 — the comparison might be more valid than the James Harden comparison.
Overall, we expect Shabazz to be picked no later than fifth in the 2013 NBA draft and it’s incredibly likely that he goes number one in the draft. While some say the 2013 NBA draft is a weak one — it’s basically Lakers fans who are employing cognitive dissonance to avoid being upset about trading away picks; I would know, since I’m a Laker fan — the draft seems really top heavy and Shabazz could be the headliner here.
Or Nerlens Noel could have a great season and grow an inch to seven feet, making him the first pick in the draft because he’s a center (which are still more valued than 2-guards).
Time will tell.