UCLA basketball has been through a tumultuous four years, with this last season being the peak (considering the infamous Sports Illustrated article on the UCLA basketball program).
Of course, a lot of the on-court problems UCLA has had to deal with begins and ends with the point guard position, one which has been UCLA’s strong point since Baron Davis came to town under Steve Lavin. Since then, guys like Darren Collison, Jordan Farmar, Jrue Holiday (like him or not, he’s probably an upgrade from Jerime Anderson) and Russell Westbrook have manned the backcourt.
The past four years, though, guys like Jerime Anderson have done a poor job of holding down that position, and this is hurt by the fact that UCLA has solid frontline depth yet no one to create shots for anyone else.
And then UCLA recruited — and landed — the 6’7” Kyle Anderson out of New Jersey, the fifth-best recruit in the class of 2012, according to ESPNU. The dude’s listed as a small forward, but anyone keeping tabs of the situation knows Kyle will play a point forward position.
The scouting report seems to confirm that Kyle Anderson is a point guard in a small forward’s body, and so do the mixtapes. Having a dude that can penetrate, take defenders off the dribble, break down the defense and create open shots for others is something UCLA’s needed for the longest time.
Of course, when UCLA landed Shabazz Muhammad back in April, everyone seemed to think it would be Shabam who would lead UCLA to prominence. And it made sense: A player comparable to James Harden, with the determination and work ethic that goes largely unmatched at his level (and possibly the next) would figure to be the lead guy for UCLA’s flailing basketball program.
Except, he won’t be the driving force. Kyle Anderson will be.
Because Kyle Anderson’s court vision seems pretty damn ridiculous. And though he doesn’t seem like the fastest basketball player on the court all times, he’s easily the craftiest and the smartest.
Has UCLA had a player like Kyle Anderson? Hell no. Not since Darren Collison.
From a technical standpoint, it won’t make sense to put another point guard on the floor (especially Norman Powell, who is three-point happy, yet doesn’t make them when eh should and seems hesitant to penetrate). Meaning he should be the team’s main ball-handler, which means he’ll be the offensive initiator on a team that, all of a sudden, has perimeter scoring (a glaring hole in UCLA’s offense in 2011).
Shabazz Muhammad can create his own shots, but as a pure 2-guard, he’ll be a dynamic scorer and won’t be the offensive distributor. Jordan Adams is also a dangerous three-point and mid-range shooter, but he can’t create his own shots like Shabazz can. Josh Smith is crafty enough but if his conditioning is nearly as bad as last season, it’ll be a lot tougher for him to bang and get post position for an easy entry pass (and, either way, it’s easier to get an open dunk on the block anyway). The Wear Twins can’t create their own shots obviously, and having them in a pick-and-pop situation where either one takes their beautiful mid-range jumper helps to spread the floor.
But of the aforementioned players, not one can create shots for another, meaning that, without Kyle Anderson, we’re relegated to the same “pass around the perimeter and let the shot clock run all the way down before taking a desperate perimeter shot” offense that UCLA patented last season (and made them so damn frustrating).
In short? UCLA has guns. The team is deep, stocked with perimeter scorers (in David Wear, Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Tyler Lamb) and inside offensive presences (in Josh Smith, Travis Wear and possibly Tony Parker). Norman Powell isn’t the shot-creator he should be by now, and no one knows what the hell we’ll get out of UNC transfer Larry Drew II.
Meaning the offense will revolve around Kyle Anderson, a long-as-hell point forward with all the craftiness to create shots by breaking down defenses with his dribble penetration.
So no one be shocked if Anderson will become UCLA’s focal point, because that’s how it should be, and as a result, it’s damn plausible for him to be this squad’s MVP.
And I wouldn’t want it any other way.