Nov. 30, 2016
Why Carlton Bragg is the College Equivalent of Shabazz Muhammad
Let me start this off by saying that I am not necessarily a detractor of either of these players. They both provide some very positive things on offense, and can both be productive NBA bench players for many, many years. Now having said that, I am going to probably end up tearing them both to shreds in this article.
First let's start with the eldest of the two. Shabazz Muhammad is a small-forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves who is a black hole defensively and quite possibly the worst defensive player in the NBA. First let’s start on the offensive side of the ball. Being a Timberwolves fan, and having watched a lot of Wolves basketball growing up, I used to think that the biggest black hole in basketball history was Nikola Pekovic (when I say black hole I mean a player that gets the ball and there’s a overwhelming chance that no one else will touch the ball on that possession). Now that I have broadened my horizons in terms of watching basketball, I still think that Nikola Pekovic is number one, and that Shabazz Muhammad is number two. Nikola Pekovic was a starting center for three or so years, and he averaged 0.7 assists for his career (assuming it is over due to injuries). Shabazz Muhammad has averaged just under eighteen minutes per game over his career, and is averaging just 0.6 assists per game. This is extremely similar to Kansas sophomore power forward Carlton Bragg. Now in his second season, the sophomore from Cleveland averages only half an assist per game. Once the ball gets in the hands of either of these two players the ball is headed towards the basket, and not the hands of a teammate. The biggest negative that comes from this is that when the team is on a run, bad shots by these two seem to slow those runs, and runs for the other team are just made even worse by bad shot selections by these two of a kind players. To make things wors both of these guys have teammates that get their buckets within the flow of their respective offense and may not stuff the stat sheet, but whose /minus's are much better than Shabazz and Carlton. Gorgui Dieng and Udoka Azubuike are the type of player that don't light up box scores on a nightly basis, but are consistent , reliable players that Carlton and Shabazz could learn a thing or two from.
Now we get to the defensive end of the floor, where both of these players are absolutely negatives. Carlton Bragg is currently playing the majority of his time at power-forward. and he just simply does not have the strength to defend down low. He gets absolutely manhandled down low. But then then, coach Bill Self tries to cut the young man some slack and let him defend smaller players at the three. On these such occurrences, Carlton Bragg is absolutely exposed as being heavy footed and has a lack of ability to defend laterally. Now let’s look at the just as incapable defender Shabazz Muhammad. Shabazz Muhammad is a little bit of the opposite. Shabazz spends the majority of his time defending players at the two or three in the NBA. Shabazz also gets exposed with his lack of ability to defend laterally one on one. He also tries to defend one on one even when that is not within the confines of the team defense, and gets even further exposed. Shabazz really should be defending four's in the NBA because of his strength and tenacity. However, he is only 6'6" and is little-boyed on a nightly basis by fours. So now that I have spent your precious time tearing these two players apart, let me explain how similarly, they are still valuable players.
Shabazz Muhammad and Carlton Bragg first and foremost will never be questioned for how much effort they give during games. They give 110% effort at all times on the floor, and their teammates feed off of that energy. Both of these players are also tenacious offensive rebounders. This leaves their teams exposed to transition buckets far too often, but it also leads to several valuable second chance points. Lastly, both of these players are extremely streaky shooters. Once a month they may go 11/12 and put up 32 points, but when more often they go 2/10 for 6 points and 3 turnovers, they cannot be a primary option most nights. But on those 11/12 nights, they can absolutely carry their teams to victory, and that is why Bragg will be drafted in the late first round of whichever draft he enters. He'll win one lucky team a few games a year, but if used in the wrong capacity, can win more games for the twenty-nine other teams in the league than he will for the team that drafts him.