After a long and tumultuous 14-months since committing to UCLA, Shabazz Muhammad saw his saga of struggles come to an end on Thursday night in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Shabazz silenced his sea of critics by sneaking into the lottery, going with the 14th overall pick to the Utah Jazz. And though the 6’6″ small forward wore a Utah hat in his post-pick interview, it looks like he’s on the move to Minnesota to start his professional career.
The proposed trade would send Shabazz and C Gorgui Dieng to Minneapolis for the Timberwolves’ first-round pick, much-heralded Michigan point guard Trey Burke. So while the Jazz scoop up the ninth overall pick in Burke, Minnesota gets a legitimate scorer to stick on the floor with Spanish phenom Ricky Rubio.
In spite of all the question marks surrounding Shabazz’s game, there’s no doubt he can put the ball in the bucket. As a freshman with the Bruins, Shabazz poured in close to 18 points per game, mostly in catch-and-shoot and transition scenarios. He also collected 5.2 rebounds per game, and showed a fierce competitiveness that was bound to catch some NBA executive’s eye.
Shabazz will join two fellow Bruins in Minnesota, as former UCLA hoopsters Malcolm Lee and Kevin Love are both already on the Wolves’ pay roll. Love is currently recovering from season-ending knee surgery, but when he makes it back, they’ll be a hell of a one-two punch. Love’s rebounding and outlet passing will compliment Shabazz’s offensive instincts in the open floor well. With Rubio orchestrating things from the point, Minnesota could have an intriguing attack with Shabazz as a sixth man off the bench.
For UCLA fans, memories of the Shabazz Muhammad era (can you call one year an era?) will be met with mixed emotions. While Shabazz did light up the scoreboard and help the Bruins win a Pac-12 title, his performance in the postseason and some ugly business off the court marred his tenure in Westwood.
But all bitter grudges aside, the UCLA fan base should cheer for Shabazz to succeed in the NBA. The legacy of Bruins basketball in the pros is only as strong as what our former players do on the big league hardwood. And wouldn’t it be great to see an all-star alum like Love on a team that actually matters? I’m not saying Shabazz can single-handedly turn things around in Minnesota, but we know he can dirty a stat sheet. With the pieces they are putting together, the Wolves have a chance to escape the basement of the Northwest Division in 2013-14.