UCLA Basketball: Did the Sweet 16 Loss to Kentucky Hurt Ball and Leaf’s Draft Stock?

Mar 23, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; UCLA Bruins forward TJ Leaf (left) and guard Lonzo Ball (right) speaks during a press conference during practice the day before the South Regional semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; UCLA Bruins forward TJ Leaf (left) and guard Lonzo Ball (right) speaks during a press conference during practice the day before the South Regional semifinals of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports /
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The UCLA Basketball team will once again have a couple of first round draft picks in Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf, but will their performance in the NCAA Tournament have them sliding on many NBA scout’s draft boards?

Let us face it, the UCLA Basketball team did not have a good second half against the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet 16. NBA Draft declarees Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf also did not have the type of performance that they are capable of.

Kentucky not only beat UCLA, they “exposed” them, as many critics have stated. The Bruins hung in there in the first half, but the second was a drag.

UK was all over the Bruins and UCLA’s two superstar freshmen could not get anything going against constant Wildcat disruptions.

Related Story: A Look at Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf's Draft Stock

Leaf was able to put up 17 points with 7 rebounds, but also had 3 turnovers. Ball’s performance was also underwhelming as the floor general could not direct the show as he normally does. He ended the night with 10 points, 8 assists and 3 rebounds, but also had 4 costly turnovers.

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Because of this, many NBA Draft experts have Ball and Leaf slipping a few spots in their mock drafts. Truth be told, the bigger focus is on Lonzo as many pundits have several different teams going after Leaf and is projected to go anywhere from the low 10s to the mid-20s. One outlet has Leaf as the 28th selection, which does not seem likely.

Ball has consistently been the #2 pick in several mock drafts all season long, but recently he has fallen and the Sweet 16 game is the reason most writers have given for doing so.

Not being able to shine in big games is something NBA scouts look for and the loss to Kentucky did not help. You could also use the Arizona loss in the Pac-12 Tournament as an example, but these are isolated performances.

Let us not glance over the seasons that Ball and Leaf had. UCLA finished with 89.8 points per game, tied for the most in the nation. A huge part of that was because of Leaf, the highest scoring Bruin (16.3 ppg) on the highest scoring team. And then you have the magician Ball who averaged 14.6 ppg and 7.6 assists. Both are very good shooters, they handle the ball well and have high basketball IQs. They do have a few things to work on, like defense and bulking up, but that will come in time under NBA tutelage. Remember, they were just freshmen.

Next: UCLA Basketball: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2017-18 Season

Come draft day, teams are going to select Ball and Leaf based on need, despite their performance in one game. The Lakers have already said they want Ball, while Leaf will be a huge commodity as a strength 4 for any team. Either way, scouts and execs will see just what these two former Bruins can do for them, especially after just one year of college basketball under their belt. In the end, both will be on NBA rosters next season. You think I’m playing’?