Shabazz Muhammad: Started from the top, now he's here

USA TODAY Sports

Once projected the top pick in this NBA draft, Shabazz Muhammad's NBA prospects project him as a late lottery to mid-first round pick. Why has the UCLA star fallen? Or does he remain a rising star?

At this point I'm sure you're aware of the drama that seems to follow Shabazz Muhammad. There seems to be an effort to paint the kid polarizing as we've discovered he's actually older than expected, his father is being indicted, he doesn't support his teammates, and he takes things from people he shouldn't or something like that for which the NCAA had it out for him.

But you know how all of that goes away? A paycheck.

Yes, professional life is the great escape from the scrutiny of amateurism and, as it were, Shabazz Muhammad has terrific pro prospects. He's big, strong, and fast. He can shoot it. He can dunk it. What isn't there to love?

Well he was once projected as the top pick in this draft until perhaps some of the weird aforementioned stuff broke. But that tends to not scare too many NBA teams away as Lance Stephenson, OJ Mayo, Brandon Jennings, and Derrick Rose are all employed by the league. And successful.

No what may be scaring teams off of Shabazz has been his measurements. He's not as big (or young) as thought. He attended the NBA combine a presumed 6'6". He measured 6'4". This has teams looking to pick a wing talent timid to select Muhammad as the League touts some big dudes. An undersized three puts your team at a disadvantage, particularly if he isn't laser accurate from deep.

But the argument stands that Muhammad can hoop. You're not First Team All Pac-12 for nothing. He scored 18 a game and snatched up 5 boards per contest. He has a tremendous mid-range game with a knack for getting to the line. Strength will behoove Muhammad early in his NBA tenure as he has the body (size-wise) to bang a little bit. His basketball instincts are phenomenal and he's not afraid of big moments. Many accounts cite a "killer instinct." While he doesn't necessarily create his own shot, he scores. Perhaps fitting of a League scheme in which many sets are run (not unlike Ben Howland's offenses).

Not known as the toughest defender, he'll have to improve on this side of the ball. Particularly as it appears his size may dictate his defensive assignments. He's not quite quick enough to guard the two and perhaps too small to guard the three. That's not to say he's out on either, but it may be a touch unconventional. This, however, is not reason enough to keep him off your roster.

So if you can get past the white noise, the peripheral issues surrounding this rising star, you see that there remains a tremendous basketball talent. The potential isn't quite being lapped up the way it once was, but some team is going to wind up with a pretty sound scorer.

That team just might be a little further down the draft board than originally expected.

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