With the NCAA apparently ruling probable top-two pick Shabazz Muhammad ineligible for the 2012-13 season, every team that projected the Bobcats or Kings to land Shabazz instantly perked up. For the Rockets, who are in desperate need of a star player but may not have a top two or three pick, the ruling could be a huge boon if they are able to pick him up a few spots further back in the draft.
However, this development could also be important to the Rockets in another way, as Muhammad will presumably seek out his options to play professional basketball for a year before declaring for the draft. It's the Jeremy Tyler and Brandon Jennings path, but given both of their rough experiences in Europe, perhaps Muhammad should look stateside for a playing opportunity.
The D-League, instituting an 18-year-old age limit for circumstances like Muhammad's, would allow Muhammad the opportunity to get his feet wet playing professional basketball without the culture shock of playing overseas (provided that playing in a locale like Des Moines wouldn't be too shocking as he moves from Las Vegas, anyway).
Playing in the Development League would provide Muhammad an opportunity to get familiar with NBA verbiage under the NBA's set of rules against veterans of professional basketball while playing for an NBA-level coach (Del Harris and Eric Musselman are currently head coaches in the D-League).
There are 11 NBA teams with direct control of a D-League affiliate, and because Muhammad won't be eligible to be called up by another team during the upcoming season due to the NBA's age limit all 11 of those teams would likely do everything in their power to acquire Muhammad for the Development League squad: Imagine being able to have your team's staff get 50 games worth of a first-hand, behind-the-scenes look at a sure-fire lottery pick while the rest of the league looks on.
The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are essentially running a Rockets operation down in the valley, and there is no way that Les Alexander does not give up every single draft pick and other asset the Vipers have in order to get Shabazz. The usual perks of having a D-League team are obvious, but they are trivial in comparison to the opportunity of molding a likely lottery pick into a legit player while also subtlely conditioning him to love anything and everything Houston Rockets.
If Shabazz came to the D-League, the RGV locker room would essentially be a shrine to Houston Rockets basketball. Kevin McHale would surely find a way to tamper with him to sell him on a future with the Rockets. Even if he didn't last until the Rockets' pick in the 2013, the team would help their shots to land him as a free agent a few years later.
Obviously, every one of other ten teams with affiliate D-League clubs would do the same, so it's impossible to say that the Rockets would find a way to get Shabazz to the Valley, but it's certainly fun to dream.
Jump for your links!
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