SALT LAKE CITY — If the NBA draft still allowed players to be taken out of high school, Shabazz Muhammad might have been one of the top picks of last year’s draft. Now, after playing a year at UCLA, Muhammad’s stock has fallen a bit, but he is still considered a top 10 pick.
So why was Muhammad among the 12 players brought in by the Utah Jazz for a pre-draft workout Monday, considering the Jazz don't pick until 14th overall?
Three possible reasons: 1) The Jazz could move up into the top 10 of the draft through a trade; 2) Muhammad might slip and be available to the Jazz at No. 14; or 3) the Jazz are determined to bring in every single player available for this year’s draft, having brought in more than 50 players already — with many more still to come.
The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Muhammad was the top name player Monday of the latest dozen invited to work out for the Jazz. Other top names included Duke forward Mason Plumlee, Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr., and another local player, B.J. Porter, who prepped at Layton Christian Academy before starring for Azusa Pacific.
Actually Muhammad, who averaged 17.9 ppg and was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection last year, didn’t even work out Monday due to a sprained left ankle he aggravated in a workout in Minnesota the day before. But he said he felt it was important to still show up in Utah — even if he doesn’t believe he’ll fall as low as No. 14.
“I really wanted to get out here and I talked to a couple of coaches and saw the facility,’’ he said. “It was a good experience and I’m glad I came.’’
Walt Perrin, the Jazz's vice president of player personnel, said Muhammad’s strengths are his “strength” and “scoring ability.’’ Muhammad agreed with that assessment and added rebounding, while saying he still needs to work on ball-handling skills.
“I think I’m a top 10 guy and it just takes one team to like you,’’ he said. “It’s important to show your face and participate. It’s a good situation here — Utah is a great place and it’s close to where I live and they have a lot of great pieces and a lot of young guys.’’
Besides Muhammad, another scheduled player who didn’t work out was Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira, a 6-foot-11, 20-year-old who is expected to be a lottery pick. That left just five players in each of the morning sessions.
Perrin called it a “different scenario” having a pair of players missing, forcing the team to have two-on-three workouts, but he complimented Jazz coaches Johnnie Bryant and Brad Jones for handling it well.
For Porter, who lived in Utah for 11 years before going away to college, it was a thrill working out for the Jazz.
“It was really a great experience to come back to your home state and work out for the Utah Jazz,’’ said Porter, who worked out for Sacramento last week.
Others who worked out Monday were USC 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon, Missouri guard Phil Pressey, Butler center Andrew Smith, North Carolina guard Dexter Strickland, Illinois State guard Tyler Brown, Princeton forward Ian Hummer and Georgia Tech guard Mfon Udofia.
The Jazz plan to hold several more workouts over the rest of the week.