Shabazz Muhammad – who was set to attend UCLA as a freshman this season – has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA for amateur rules violations.
Muhammad was one of the top recruits from this year’s class and is projected as a top five pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
The Oklahoma City Thunder currently hold the Toronto Raptors’ first round draft pick next year and will keep it if it falls in the 4-15 range. Right now the Raptors have the third worst record in the league, starting the year 1-4.
Even with Muhammad being ruled ineligible, scouts say it won’t affect his draft stock much although it may keep him from being selected first overall. With players like Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller and James McAdoo around, there is a chance Muhammad could drop past the top three giving the Thunder a chance to make a play for him.
The 2013 NBA Draft is a long way away and a lot can happen between now and then but Thunder fans should keep a close eye on this situation because Muhammad plays a lot like James Harden.
Muhammad is a lefty like Harden and built like him too at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds. If you watch his highlight tapes, you will immediately see the similarities.
Imagine what kind of genius Thunder GM Sam Presti would look like if the Thunder are able to draft Muhammad with the Toronto pick they received in the Harden trade.
There is still a good chance Toronto will start playing better and end up with a pick much higher than the fourth overall. But the Thunder will also have two other first round picks in their own and Dallas’ as well as Charlotte’s early second round pick to use in an attempt to move up the draft board.
This is the kind of flexibility and options that Presti earned the Thunder in the Harden trade. Harden was always going to be the sure thing but there is the possibility of replacing him with a talent like Muhammad next year now.