CHICAGO -- Shabazz Muhammad could easily fall to the Wizards if they pick high enough in the NBA draft on June 27.
It all depends on where the Wizards pick. The draft lottery is Tuesday in New York.
The 6-6 small forward from UCLA isn't taking any chances. Unlike some of the projected high lottery picks, Muhammad participated in on-the-court drills at the combine Thursday.
He’s scheduled to meet with the Wizards, who have GM Ernie Grunfeld and coach Randy Wittman in attendance, among others.
Muhammad completed his freshman season and is turning pro despite significant questions about his overall game and his character. The Los Angeles Times revealed that Muhammad is 20 after having misrepresented his age as one year younger throughout his career.
“I want to play. Some of these guys don’t want to play but I’m going to compete. I want to go out and show that I play harder than everybody else,” said Muhammad, who averaged 18 points, 5.2 rebounds and shot 44.3% from the field. “That’s one thing I think everybody should prove.
“I don’t care if I’m going to be the No. 1 pick I’d still come out here. I’m a competitor. I don’t think I shot it that well today but I worked really hard. You can’t control your shooting. As long as you work hard everything will fall [into place].… When you’re in the NBA you can’t run from guys. You can’t run from Kobe (Bryant). I want to face all of these guys.”
Muhammad is noted for his physical strength and aggression. He doesn't put the ball on the floor a lot or drive right because he’s left-handed. But he could rebound better. His average of less than 1.0 assists per game sticks out like a sore thumb.
“My explosiveness, I really couldn't show it at UCLA. It’s still there. It’s always been there,” he said. “It was not a lot of running. It was a half-court game. Coach (Ben) Howland came from the Big East. You know that’s a grind out (style).”
With John Wall running the point, the pace picks up considerably in Washington. Last season’s starting small forward, Martell Webster, is a free agent. Trevor Ariza, who backed up Webster, is entering the last year deal and is more valuable for his defense.
Although the Wizards were eighth in the NBA in fewest points allowed per game (95.8), they were last in points scored (93.2).