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With the frenzy surrounding new UCLA players in the NFL (well, at least at the UCLA end of it), I thought it’d be cool to discuss some former UCLA players in another one of the “Big 4″ Northern American professional sports leagues: The NBA.
With the regular season over, it’ll be easy to gauge just where our Bruins rank. It should be noted, however, that we do not disrespect any of the lower-ranking players because, honestly, it’s a hell of an accomplishment to even be in the NBA, and they’re content to be a part of that large family.
So without getting into more exposition-y stuff, let’s rank our Bruins, based on their success in the NBA thus far, with an emphasis on this past season.
1. Kevin Love. Love has become the cornerstone of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ efforts to rebuild a franchise left in shambles after another elite power forward, Kevin Garnett, left in 2007. After becoming the league’s top rebounder in 2011, Love is now the NBA’s fourth leading scorer, averaging 26 points per game alongside 13 rebounds. Although he has yet to make the postseason, it’s fair to say his time will come soon, especially with the talent Minnesota has surrounded him with.
2. Russell Westbrook. Love’s teammate in 2008 gets the nod at second for obvious reasons; however, he wasn’t picked first because he isn’t the principle block of the Oklahoma City Thunder (although he could be the centerpiece of any other NBA franchise) but he’s pretty damn close. Westbrook rounded out the NBA’s top five scorers at number five, averaging 23.6 points per game while shooting at a 46 percent clip. There are definitely a ton of Westbrook haters (the ignorant ones who think James Harden is the team’s second-best player, while failing to recognize that Russell was improperly utilized as a pass-first point guard his first three years, a role that he wasn’t comfortable with but excelled in anyway). Of course, there’s no telling just how big of a matchup problem Russell presents, since he can slash at will thanks to his top-tier quickness and incredible ball-handling skills.
3. Arron Afflalo. Afflalo, one of the most tireless and industrious Bruins in UCLA history, has improved every year since entering the NBA in 2007 with the Detroit Pistons. This past season, Afflalo managed to solidify himself as the Denver Nuggets’ primary defender (and he’s one of the scrappiest 2-guard defenders in the NBA) while becoming a legitimate threat on offense, with 15.6 points per game off of 47 percent shooting and nearly 40 percent shooting from downtown. Afflalo is highly coveted among everyone because he is the very definition of consistency and tenacity.
4. Jrue Holiday. He may not be everyone’s favorite Bruin, but there isn’t denying that he learned how to play solid basketball from Ben Howland during his time at UCLA. Holiday has become one of Philadelphia’s primary sources of offense while also doing a not-bad job of defending perimeter players. Holiday’s biggest issue at Philadelphia is his inability to step up to the plate and take control of games, especially considering he has the talent, and that Philly is devoid of that kind of player.
5. Darren Collison. We move from everyone’s least favorite current Bruin to one of the most beloved Bruins in UCLA history. Collison, one of the rare players who stood at UCLA all four years, has done a good job of helping an Indiana Pacers team, currently the third-seeded team in the Eastern Conference playoffs, with their balanced offensive attack while also being a crafty defender. Collison is a serviceable point that is just as hard-working as there is in the league.
6. Trevor Ariza. Ariza has gained a ton of notoriety for his stint in Los Angeles as a Laker, where he saw the biggest increase in his development as a player: Ariza became known as a sound team defender that can slash and shoot the corner three, all requirements for a 3 in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. Since his departure, Ariza has been the New Orleans Hornets (and, prior, the Houston Rockets’) primary source of offense; we tend to think this is an unfair role because that’s not the kind of system Ariza thrives under, but the fact that they have enough faith in him for him to shoot as much as he does says a lot about his character.
7. Jordan Farmar. Farmar is yet another beloved Bruin that helped lead UCLA to its first of three Final Fours during the 2000s in 2006. Farmar is currently with the New Jersey Nets, backing up All-Star (and, if we’re honest, well-known jerk) Deron Williams. Farmar has done much better in his second year with the Nets, scoring 10 points per game off of 47 percent shooting while knocking down 44 percent of his threes, a far cry from his sub-40-percent shooting with the L.A. Lakers (probably his most frustrating years as a pro, which led to the Lakers’ unwillingness to retain him).
8. Matt Barnes. Surprisingly, Matt Barnes, an eight-year pro and total bad-ass, has become the Lakers’ fourth most consistent player in the 2012 NBA season (behind Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol). His PER is much higher than the man he backs up (Metta World Peace) at league average, and he provides the Lakers with an important source of outside shooting and perimeter defense.
9. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. LRMAM (thank goodness for abbreviations) has done a fine job as an important rotation player for an ailing Milwaukee Bucks team that narrowly missed the postseason this year. He’s had his best year as a pro in 2012, averaging 7.7 points per game off of 51 percent shooting; of course, this comes despite some injuries cutting down the amount of games he’s played, but it’s good to know that he’s becoming a serviceable 3 down in Wisconsin.
10. Baron Davis. Davis is one of the few (six) Bruins left standing, and is the starting point guard for the New York Knicks. After Jeremy Lin went down with injury, Davis has become the Knicks’ primary offensive initiator and has actually played within himself since Mike Woodson took over for Mike D’antoni as coach. Davis has struggled his entire career with staying in shape and not shooting needless threes, but since his arrival in New York, it seems as if he’s a serviceable enough point guard to hold the fort.
11. Ryan Hollins. Hollins is the last one on this last that has consistently broken his team’s rotation. Now in Boston, currently a playoff team, Hollins provides size for a team that really hasn’t had any all season (after needlessly giving away Kendrick Perkins last season). Hollins averages 10 minutes a game with the Celts.
12. Earl Watson. Watson has fallen out of the Utah Jazz’s rotation in the past month and hasn’t seen gametime since early April; however, Watson has been quite the journeyman and has done a good job of staying in the league and on an NBA team for all ten years he’s been in the Assocation.
12. Jason Kapono. Kapono last played for the Los Angeles Lakers to provide some much-needed outside scoring. Unfortunately, Kapono fell out of the rotation and, eventually, was let go from the team after underperforming pretty massively. Kapono, however, has had a brilliant career of being a legitimate three-point shooter and even has a three-point scoring contest to his name.
13. Dan Gadzuric. Dan recently signed on as a New York Knick to provide more depth at the pivot, and though he rarely sees playing time, Gadzuric is a big body that can take up space in the paint.
14/15. Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee. Both players are rookies who are fresh off their careers as Bruins. While Lee has seemed to have better luck breaking into the Timberwolves’ rotation, Honeycutt is still buried on the Sacramento Kings’ depth chart. The good thing is that both have a ton of time to improve and prove serviceable as NBA players. Until then, both will receive the rookie treatment and be buried on this list.
Topics: Arron Afflalo, Bruins In The Nba, Dan Gadzuric, Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Kevin Love, List Of Bruins In The Nba, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, Malcolm Lee, Russell Westbrook, UCLA Basketball, UCLA Bruins