Shabazz Muhammad (15), Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The 2013 NBA Draft is less than a month away and speculation is really starting to pick up. UCLA has one player up for selection this year, as freshman Shabazz Muhammad chose to forego his remaining eligibility and join the professional ranks.
Once upon a time, Shabazz was projected as the No. 1 overall pick of the future. But after a relatively tumultuous in Westwood that raised question marks on and off the court, Shabazz doesn’t have the same shine he used to. Nonetheless, most still expect him to be taken in the lottery, perhaps among the first eight picks.
One possible destination for Shabazz is Washington, as the Wizards need a forward and could use some offensive firepower. Before we learned that the Wiz had the third overall pick, it seemed a lot more possible for Muhammad to land there. But even now, it’s a possibility worth considering.To get the inside scoop on what Washington is looking for, Go Joe Bruin caught up with Ben Mehic, the editor of FanSided’s Wizards site, Wiz of Awes. Ben was kind enough to field some our questions about how Shabazz and the Wiz would do. I answered a few of his questions about our former Bruin, and that article can be seen here. Without further ado, let’s get to the Q&A!
Q: What would you describe as the Wizards’ key deficiency that has lead to their poor performance in recent years? What kind of player would you want to see drafted to fill those needs?
A: Washington’s inability to evaluate talent and inconsistency is/was probably their biggest deficiency. Let’s be honest, I could include a laundry list of things the Wizards have failed to do to improve the franchise, but that would take all day. Since Ted Leonsis bought the team in 2010, management has cleaned house, getting rid of JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Jordan Crawford and Andray Blatche, who were supposed to be cornerstone pieces in Washington’s attempt to rebuild the team.
They’ve traded for guys like Nene and Emeka Okafor who have helped bring stability to the locker room. Washington has also acquired Martell Webster and Bradley Bealthrough the NBA Draft and free agency, which has also improved the team from a character standpoint. Adding more guys through trades, draft and free agency who could not only help the team on the court, but continue to change the culture, will ultimately fill the needs I mentioned.
Washington Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza (1) , Credit: USA Today Sports Images
Q: From what I can tell, it looks like the cupboards are pretty barren at forward for the Wiz (aside from UCLA alum Trevor Ariza, of course). Is picking up a forward a major emphasis for their first round pick this year?
A: Although adding another forward is key during this offseason, I don’t think it will be the only major emphasis for Washington in this year’s NBA Draft. Wizards head coach Randy Wittman and GM Ernie Grunfeld have stated that they’ll ultimately take the best player available. I believe if a guy like Otto Porter Jr. is on the board, who will not only be considered the best player available, but fill a need, Washington will have to pick him up. Washington has established their backcourt of the future with John Wall and Beal, so adding a forward to that young nucleus is a huge factor.
Q: From what you know of Shabazz, do you think his shoot-first game would be an asset worth buying for Washington? In other words, is volume scoring what the Wizards need to take the next step in rebuilding?
A: Yes and no. Washington has had volume shooters in the past with the likes of Young and Crawford, and their time in the nation’s capital didn’t end too well. With that said, the Wizards were the worst offensive team in the league last season in terms of offensive efficiency. Adding another player along side Wall and Beal who could put the ball in the basket is one of the biggest tasks for management this offseason.
Washington was also the eighth best defensive team last season, and we’ve seen teams which are successful defensively succeed in the NBA. The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers are two of the best defensive teams in the NBA, but don’t necessarily have a great offense, yet they’ve still managed to be successful. At the end of the day, defense trumps offense. Although a scorer is needed next season, a guy like Shabazz Muhammad who struggles defensively and has built a reputation of being a selfish player isn’t someone the team will likely look to add at this time.
John Wall (2), Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Q: John Wall is a franchise star that can put together a hell of a highlight reel. But how does he handle personalities as the orchestrator at point? I’ve heard plenty about some bonehead stuff happening with former Wizards, so he may have experience already. Do you think he would he be able to handle Shabazz’s somewhat detached play style?
A: As much as I love John Wall, I don’t think he has the personality or enough experience in the NBA to handle guys like Shabazz. We all know how former Wizards Blatche, Young and Crawford ended their time in D.C., and long story short, it wasn’t pretty.
Will Wall eventually learn how to deal with selfish players through experience in the NBA? Maybe. But at this point in time, I don’t think John Wall nor the team has time for a guy like Shabazz. Selfish characters have no place in the Wizards locker room. Muhammad’s me, me, me attitude won’t do him any good in the NBA, especially since he was terribly disappointing at UCLA.
Q: Let’s cut to the chase—who do you think Washington will end up taking with the third overall pick? Will it be Shabazz or someone else entirely?
A: It obviously all depends on who the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic decide to draft, but if it all goes as planned, the Wizards will likely end up taking Georgetown’s Otto Porter. There have been several reports that the Cavaliers are interested in taking Porter first overall, which would be surprising since Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel is projected to go first, but Cleveland has built a reputation of taking guys who weren’t projected to go in their respective spots. Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters were both considered reaches by the Cavaliers, so I honestly could see Cleveland snagging Porter before it’s the Wizards time to pick. Porter would not only fill Washington’s need at small forward, but he’d fit right in with Wall and Beal. He can shoot, play defense and doesn’t have a huge ego like some of Washington’s past draft picks have had.
Shabazz Muhammad has the talent and drive to become a very good player in the NBA, but Washington’s scenery isn’t for him. They’re trying to become a playoff team through their great defense, and Muhammad simply doesn’t fit in their plans. Although they need a scorer, Muhammad’s selfishness has caused his draft stock to fall drastically.
Q: And lastly, be honest. Do you wish the Wizards were still called the Bullets? Because most of the general NBA fan base does.
A: Of course, but in all honestly, the Wizards have started to grow a bit on the fan base. Fans constantly want to live in the past, but with all the gun violence going on in the country, I don’t expect the team to change names anytime soon. The Bullets is obviously a lot cooler and more intimidating than a man with magical powers, but I’ll live with it. Variations of the name such as WizKids are often used instead of the Wizards, which helps it out a tad. Besides, the Wizards have changed their colors back to red, white and navy blue, and have made their jerseys some of the best in the league.
It could be worse, right? Just ask New Orleans.