In one of most unpredictable NBA drafts ever, Shabazz Muhammad stuck close to his spot in most mock drafts.
The Utah Jazz drafted the former UCLA standout at No. 14 and traded him to Minnesota. The Timberwolves had agreed to swap former Michigan point guard Trey Burke, the No. 8 pick, for the 14th and 21st picks.
The Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year’s fall to the bottom of the lottery was a disappointment when compared to the hype he generated on the prep and AAU circuits.
Among the names that went before Muhammad: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk. Right after Muhammad was selected, the Milwaukee Bucks picked Giannis Antetokounmpo — the first Greek player drafted since 2000.
“I think he’s actually worth a higher pick than this,” ESPN announcer Jay Bilas said of Muhammad. “When you take the risk-reward decision, this is a good spot for him.”
Once the nation’s No. 1 recruit out of Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High, Muhammad was a potent scorer marred by issues both on and off the court. After shaking off a three-game suspension, he averaged 17.9 points per game but relied too much on his left hand. He showed little playmaking ability (0.8 assists per game) and was accused of selfishness for not celebrating teammate Larry Drew’s game-winning shot.
Right before the NCAA Tournament, the L.A. Times revealed that he was actually 20 years old, not 19. He is the first Bruin drafted in the first round since 2009, when Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison were drafted 17th and 21st overall.
“I don’t think he’s athletic enough,” said ESPN’s Bill Simmons. “This is going to sound insulting, but he reminds me of an unathletic James Harden.”
Minnesota may be a good destination for Muhammad, who could be more effective if he learns to play as a secondary option. The Timberwolves can surround him with Ricky Rubio — a dynamic, pass-first point guard — and Kevin Love, a former Bruin who is now one of the NBA’s best big men.