The two best prospects in the Class of 2016 will be announcing their intended college destinations Wednesday night at 7:30 PM ET during a live telecast on ESPNU, ESPN3, and WatchESPN.com. Nerlens Noel (Everett, MA, The Tilton School) and Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas, NV, Bishop Gorman High School), the best and second-best players in the Class of 2016 respectively have each narrowed their choices down to three finalists. Noel will be choosing between Kentucky, Georgetown, and Syracuse, and has been hailed as the next premier shot-blocker, a la Anthony Davis, and the trendy choice for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Muhammad has narrowed his choices down to Duke, Kentucky, and UCLA, and has star-potential from day one. If Duke were to secure the services of Muhammad, they would immediately have one of the best recruiting classes in the country and would have the pieces to make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament.
With the loss of leading-scorer Austin Rivers, Muhammad would be able to provide an immediate scoring option and elite wing defender that the Blue Devils have been missing following the departure of Kyle Singler in 2011. Standing 6’6″ and weighing 215 pounds, Muhammad thrives in the open court, where he uses his size and athleticism to attack the rim relentlessly. In the half-court set, Muhammad often relies on both his mid-range pull-up game and slashing ability that allows him to score at will, as evidence by him averaging 29.4 PPG his senior year of high school.
He will have to improve his three-point shooting ability in order to become a more complete player at the next level, specifically by improving his footwork and speeding up his release. Additionally, as a left-hand dominant player, Muhammad needs to establish consistent one-on-one moves going to the right in the half-court set. Muhammad is able to compensate for these weaknesses with his intense competitive nature and pure will to win, which has led him to be compared to Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I envision Muhammad filling a role much like Grant Hill and Shane Battier did during their days at Duke, providing a reliable scoring option at the small forward position while also having the ability to guard multiple positions well.