Shabazz Muhammad put out his top three earlier this week: UCLA, Kentucky, Duke, in no particular order. Kentucky and Duke would love to have Shabazz, but they wouldn't shed tears if they didn't get him.
UCLA, on the other hand, really, really needs him.
UCLA is a better team, but UCLA has not been an elite offensive team since 2009. When UCLA was at their best earlier in the decade, they had solid point guard play, hard working big men, and outstanding performers at every position. They've had none of those things the past four years, and the Bruins have fallen from the level of the nation's elite as a result.
This season all of these flare-ups simmered to the surface. UCLA had decent guards in Jerime Andersen and Lazeric Jones, but no one who could really stand out and dribble-drive to the paint with ease, which caused some offensive stagnation every now and then. The Bruins had decent size inside, but after Reeves Nelson left, Josh Smith kept on getting into foul trouble and the Wear twins were the path of least resistance on the way to the bucket.
Despite all that, the biggest disadvantage for UCLA's offense? No elite slasher to get buckets. That's been UCLA's biggest problem ever since Josh Shipp departed for the pros. Tyler Honeycutt was woefully inconsistent and inefficient, and up to this point Tyler Lamb has been even worse. Without that extra scoring punch, the Bruins get into a lot of trouble offensively.
That could change if Shabazz heads down the highway from Bishop Gorman to Westwood.
Muhammad could instantly become one of the best small forward prospects the Bruins have ever had coming out of college. His athleticism is elite, and he can provide the team an instant number one scoring option to rely on if the offense stagnates. Having those type of players in college is a luxury, and Muhammad could really help return the Bruins to greatness if his talents translate to the next level. Having someone who can get UCLA baskets from the wing position is something this team sorely lacks.
This UCLA recruiting class has the potential to resolve many of the current issues. But of all of these players, Shabazz could be the crown jewel that saves Ben Howland.