The UCLA men’s basketball team has been impressive offensively through 18 games this season, but lately their consistency has begun to waver.
The Bruins are averaging 77.6 points per game, and have been shooting better than 47% from the field, ranking 23rd and 25th in the nation in these stats, respectively. UCLA’s 10 game winning streak was broken last Saturday in a loss to the Oregon Ducks, where the Bruins only scored 67 points, 10 less than their season average. Larry Drew II has been UCLA’s most efficient offensive playmaker, averaging 8.1 assists and less than 2 turnovers per contest, but Kyle Anderson has perhaps been their most effective playmaker.
Kyle Anderson’s is a better playmaker than his 3.7 assists per game numbers. His passes start fast breaks and lead to easy shots or dimes by other players. Anderson’s shooting also plays a factor in creating points for others. He shoots 49% from inside the arc, and because of his height and ball-handling skills, defenses must respect his drive to the basket. Larry Drew II has been great at dishing out assists, but he lacks confidence in his shooting ability, and opposing defenses do not expect him to look to score at all. The help defense that Anderson attracts in the paint creates opportunities to get the ball to the open teammate for a high quality look at the basket.
Employing this strategy on offense could prove very helpful for every Bruin player, especially two freshmen that have been struggling from the field as of late, Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad. Muhammad and Adams lead the team in scoring this season, but both have struggled to shoot efficiently. Over the last 6 games, Adams has shot only 32.7% from the field, while Muhammad has been a bit better at 41%. Designating Kyle Anderson as the primary ball handler on offense would get Muhammad who’s more of a slasher, higher quality looks at the rim. Adams would also benefit with higher quality jump shots.
The UCLA Bruins have had some great scoring outbursts this season and aren’t struggling to put points on the board, but they have so much potential with all these freshmen performing at such a high level. Coach Ben Howland has made a great move this season, changing his offensive strategy to accommodate the athleticism and youth of this squad. Trusting Kyle Anderson and his high basketball IQ with more responsibility running the offense could be a decision that makes Howland look like the “genius” Bruins fans thought he was when he got the job.