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76ers Draft Preview: The Case For Shabazz Muhammad

There isn't much chance that the Sixers select a difference maker with the No. 11 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Unless, of course, they choose to cast their lot with UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad.

UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad is one of the few difference makers in the 2013 NBA Draft.
UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad is one of the few difference makers in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Shabazz Muhammad is destined for greatness.

CBS basketball analyst Clark Kellogg is fond of saying "You can't run away from the DNA!", and by the looks of it, UCLA freshman swingman Shabazz Muhammad won the genetic lottery.

His father, Ronald Holmes, was a four-year starter at point guard for USC, and his mother ran track and played basketball at Long Beach State. Muhammad's uncle, Stephone Paige, was a star wide receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs in the '80s and early '90s.

Genes only tell part of the story, however: Years of specialized training have helped mold Muhammad into the potential lottery pick that he is today. Even before Muhammad was born, Holmes' primary goal was to make his son an elite-level NBA player.

And though we're still years away from the finished product, Muhammad's debut on the college level provides reason for optimism. During his only season in Westwood, Muhammad led the Bruins in scoring (17.9 PPG), finished second on the team in rebounding (5.2 RPG), and was named to the All-Pac-12 first team.

Last month, Tom Ziller wrote that Muhammad's freshman year statistics were eerily similar to those that Harrison Barnes put up during his sophomore season in Chapel Hill. And if the Sixers knew that they could walk away from the June 27 draft with a player of Barnes' caliber, there's no way that they'd pass up Muhammad at No. 11.

Why would they? After all, Muhammad has been preparing for this moment virtually his entire life - all 19 or 20 years of it, depending on who you ask.

Shabazz Muhammad is a liar.

No profile that you read about Muhammad is complete without mention of the fact that the 6'6" small forward lied about his age for a significant portion of his life.

According to his birth certificate, his driver's license and everything else that matters, Muhammad is 20 years old. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem except that until March 22, the majority of the world thought that he was 19.

All signs point to the deception as being the key element of a plan by Muhammad's father to make his son appear younger than he actually was. Muhammad's domination of the Pac-12 as a 19-year-old freshman? Impressive. Doing the same as a 20-year-old? Not so much.

Despite claims that he never made any statements to the contrary, Muhammad's silence about his true age can basically be interpreted as lying by omission. It's not a Danny Almonte situation per se, but it's enough to give a few front offices around the league pause, especially when lumped with the news that Muhammad's father was recently indicted on charges of bank fraud.

The sins of the father shouldn't be passed down to the son, but Muhammad's hands aren't entirely clean, either. Fortunately for Muhammad, in the NBA, talent (almost always) trumps all.

Shabazz Muhammad is selfish.

Muhammad played 986 minutes in 32 games for the UCLA Bruins last season. During that stretch, he amassed a grand total of 27 assists.

It's hard to spin that number in any sort of positive fashion: That assist total is paltry enough to make Nick Young blush. And even though Muhammad aged an entire year in a single day, he still has plenty of growing and maturing to do both on and off of the court.

Some of Muhammad's attitude is a result of his role as the alpha dog for the majority of his basketball career. Muhammad was the 2011 Player of the Year in the state of Nevada, the MVP of the 2012 McDonald's All-American Game, and the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2012 according to several recruiting websites.

Muhammad has never had to defer to anyone on the court in his life, but he'll need to do so - or at least convince teams that he can - if he plans on having a lengthy NBA career.

Cockiness and conviction are often misidentified for one another, so perhaps Muhammad's perceived (and demonstrated) selfishness is merely the mark of a man who has supreme faith in his ability. And considering the talent that figures to be available when the Sixers pick at No. 11, isn't it smart to side with the player who firmly believes that he's destined for great things?

Shabazz Muhammad is confident.

During the pre-draft process, prospects are coached to say the things that they hope will ultimately improve their stock. It isn't hard to find a player who thinks that he's the best at his position, but Muhammad makes his case with such self-assuredness that it's hard not be be swayed.

The Long Beach native is a fearless scorer (23.2 points per 40 minutes at UCLA last season) and a tenacious rebounder (2.7 offensive rebounds per game) who has the potential to be an above-average defender. Muhammad's blend of athleticism, size and length (223 pounds, 6'11" wingspan) will allow him to contribute in a number of different ways at the next level.

While many players shy away from the spotlight in a close game, Muhammad wants the ball in his hands during crunch time (perhaps too much). A quick scan of the 76ers' roster shows that the team is in desperate need of a go-to option, and if Muhammad is still on the board for the Sixers at No. 11, the choice should be clear.

Of course, the safe play would be to take a big with a low ceiling who figures to be a solid rotation player for the next decade. The smart pick, however, would be the 6'6" wing with the basketball DNA who can rebound, guard multiple positions, and knock down an open jump shot.

Shabazz Muhammad is the future.

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