Time passed, team workouts progressed, the reality of the draft set in, and suddenly Shabazz Muhammad isn’t so toxic.
The new perspective heading into the last full week before the draft is that Muhammad is still a possibility for the top 10, still appreciated for his scoring potential, and maybe even appreciated more than any time during his one-and-done UCLA career. Welcome to the recovery. Or at least the stability.
This isn’t nearly the early-season conversation of Muhammad on course to be one of the first three picks in the draft and possibly even No. 1 itself, but it’s also a lot different than a month ago, when it wasn’t hard to find a front office hammering Muhammad for selfish play while predicting Muhammad would plummet entirely out of the lottery.
The view, for one thing. There are concerns about Muhammad’s ability to fit into a team, but good luck finding a player in this draft who doesn’t have big holes. The closer the draft got, the more players went under the microscope in workouts for individual teams, the more the realization set in that he is still one of the better options in an underwhelming class. Nothing has changed on one important front: He remains one of the top scoring threats on the board and a player eight months ago considered to have tremendous upside, and those are commodities that cannot be overlooked.
The auditions, for another. Muhammad got directly in front of executives and scouts for individual team workouts.
“Say what you will about him, but his work ethic is great,” one personnel boss said. “He might have the best work ethic in the draft. Seriously. He’s one of those guys you have to drag out of the gym.”
The talk of top three is long gone, but top 10, a possible outcome, would be a nice save. There are several safety nets in place for Muhammad to avoid that other potential finish, dropping out of the lottery. One of those, in the latest NBA.com mock draft, is No. 13 to the Mavericks, a team with O.J. Mayo possibly leaving as a free agent and Vince Carter getting closer to retirement.
Other draft notes as the push to June 27 continues:
- St. Mary’s point guard Matthew Dellavedova is making an under-the-radar move. Though hardly one of the big names, the Australian has enhanced his chances for the second round and assured at the very least that he will get a chunk of guaranteed money for summer league and training camp as an undrafted free agent if it comes to that. Point guards who can run pick-and-roll always have value to the NBA, and Dellavedova can do it with precision. Good showings at group workouts hosted by the Nets and Timberwolves boosted his stock.
- Great, and unique, praise, for Maryland center Alex Len, at No. 4 to the Bobcats in the latest mock despite not being able to work out for teams because of injury. Said one executive: “He should touch the ball every possession. He’s very smart.” Charlotte is a tough read because it has so many possible directions to go, but there is one important factor to keep in mind. Logically, Michael Jordan & Co. can’t have two non-scoring forwards, and 2012 lottery pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the future at small forward without being able to hit a shot yet. That makes Anthony Bennett, UNLV’s talented stretch-four, an excellent fit. Some front offices have Bennett as high as No. 3 on their prospect rankings, if not their actual mock with teams needs factored in.
- Monday is the deadline for international prospects to withdraw from the draft. Dario Saric remains the focus of the waiting game, with his agent having said the Croation small forward projecting to the middle of the first round and possibly late-lottery will wait until 2014, but some NBA clubs are not entirely convinced.