If the Celtics decide to target a wing with the 16th pick in this year’s NBA draft, the player they should target is Shabazz Muhammad.
At this time last year, the idea of the Celtics ending up with a player like Muhammad would have seemed ridiculous. He went into the college season with incredibly high expectations, and was widely to be considered a top three player in his draft class.
But after a rough season, Shabazz’s draft stock is widely unknown. In various mock drafts, experts have him going anywhere from pick 6 to pick 16. If he does fall to pick 16, there is almost no way that the Celtics could pass up on him.
Muhammad, 20, was the starting small forward at UCLA this past season. He stands at roughly 6’6” in shoes, and weighs 222 pounds giving him the size of an average NBA forward.
As a freshman this past season, he averaged 17.9 points and 5.2 rebounds over 30.8 minutes per game.
Muhammad is one of the top offensive prospects in this year’s draft. He scores in a variety of ways, including in transition, in the post, and off of catch and shoot jumpers. He moves well without the ball but sometimes struggles to create his own shots.
He also rebounds the ball well, which is a skill that should translate seamlessly in the NBA.
The main area that Muhammad will have to improve on in the NBA is his passing game. He is often regarded as a selfish player, which is understandable given that the majority of his team’s possessions ran through him at UCLA.
Defensively, Muhammad is very lazy. He can defend well when he tries, but the effort is rarely there. He creates very few turnovers, which is a big turnoff for NBA teams.
Muhammad would make sense for the Celtics, as if he makes it to pick 16, his upside far outweighs the risk. Teams will be hesitant to draft him in the top 10 because of his questionable motor, but in Boston he would have no pressure to contribute immediately.
He would likely start the season behind both Paul Pierce and Jeff Green on the depth chart, and would likely get about 20 minutes per game coming off of the bench.
In the playoffs this season, the Celtics desperately needed a spark off of the bench. Muhammad could fill this role well, as he has already proven himself to be one of the best scorers in his draft class.
Other potential Celtics draft targets include:Gorgui Dieng - C (Louisville) Dennis Schroeder - PG (Germany) Shane Larkin - PG (Miami) Mason Plumlee - C (Duke) Steven Adams - C (Pittsburgh) Sergey Karasev - SF (Russia) Giannis Adetokunbo - SF (Greece) Kelly Olynyk - C (Gonzaga)