Had Shabazz Muhammad been eligible for the NBA Draft one year ago, he likely would have been a top-10 selection.
Heck, he might have been one of the first five players off the board.
He was not eligible, though, and instead went to UCLA for one year of college. After a solid-but-underwhelming season that saw him average 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game — as well as deal with some controversy — Muhammad’s stock has fallen to the point where some are questioning whether or not he’ll even be a lottery pick in the June 27 draft.
In town with a handful of other top prospects — including Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller as well as Frenchman Rudy Gobert — to work out for the Phoenix Suns Wednesday, Muhammad said he values competition and could see himself wearing purple and orange next season.
“They need a guy that can score the ball,” Muhammad said of the Suns.
The Suns currently hold two first-round picks in the upcoming draft, at No. 5 and No. 30.
Pointing to guards Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall as well as Markieff and Marcus Morris as guys already on the roster, Muhammad feels he could “step in and really help this team right away.”
By numbers alone, Muhammad would appear to have the skill set with which to do that. He made nearly 38 percent of his three-point attempts, shot 71 percent from the free throw line and was, generally, a productive scorer in his only season at Westwood. However, there are questions about his ability to score against NBA defenders as well as his character. The former issue is one he’s hoping to answer in these workouts, whereas the latter is something that is more about his father, not him.
“I’ve been interviewing with these coaches and they know how good of a kid I am,” Muhammad said. “I just want to come out here and play basketball. All the other extracurricular activity stuff is stuff I’m not really included in.
“I just want to come out here and play basketball and that’s my job.”
Which is why, most likely, the most pressing question is can the 6-foot-6 player be an effective scorer at the next level. Saying he thinks he’s more of a shooting guard than small forward, Muhammad believes his game will translate better to the NBA than it did for college.
“Absolutely, in the NBA you’re not as restricted, in college you’re pretty restricted,” he said. “Me, I like to play my game, I like to take guys off the dribble, I like to go to the hole.
“That’s stuff I can really do in the NBA.”