The UCLA basketball team does well when their floor general does well, which is why the Bruins have been playing better basketball when Jaylen Hands looks to pass-first, rather than shoot-first.
There is the shoot-first style made famous by Bryce Alford which resulted in a mediocre display from 2013-16 (UCLA went 65-40 in Bryce’s three-years at PG, 61.9%). Then there was the everybody else first style brought in by Lonzo Ball (31-5 in his lone season, 83.8%).
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Right now, UCLA is trying to figure out what type of defense they want to run with Jaylen Hands taking over. Through eight games, we have seen both PG styles displayed by Hands and similar to the full season results given above, the Bruins do really well when Hands is looking to get everyone involved.
When Bryce Alford was running the point, more often than not, he would shoot the ball early in the Bruins’ possession. If he made it, great, but if he missed (Alford had a field goal percentage of .280 in his three years as UCLA’s starting point guard), then that would be a wasted possession (Author’s note, this is not to disparage Alford, but simply to show a difference in styles).
During Ball’s time at UCLA, he had a field goal percentage of .551 and averaged 7.6 assists per game. Alford averaged 4.2 assists per game in the three years he was the starting point guard.
The point is, if Hands is looking to take that next step as both a potential NBA Draft selection and a team leader, the Lonzo route is a slightly better direction to take in terms of growth.
Jaylen Hands’ 2018 Game Stats
Though one should not come to conclusions based on small sample sizes, it would be wrong not to appreciate what Hands has done in the last two games. Against Hawaii, he was not able to get his shot down. In fact, he has not had a great shooting percentage early in this season, but in that game, he worked on getting others involved and had a season-high 11 assists. He upped his game in their next contest against LMU as he again had double-digit assists, but added 17 points to go with it.
On the season, his 6.3 assists rank him 29th in the nation. If we take his last three games (which includes the loss to UNC as he managed to handout 9 assists), Hands has averaged 10.0 assists per game, putting him at the top of that stat column.
Jaylen Hands Season Stats: 12.6 ppg | 6.3 apg | 3.1 rpg | 2.8 turnovers | .366 FG%
Additionally, he has been able to keep his turnovers low, resulting in a 2.3 assists-to-turnover ratio for the season, good for 118th in the nation. If we count the last three games, that jumps up to 4.2, good for about 35th in the nation.
If Hands wants to be known as a scorer than he is on the right path. It could improve (especially that FG%), but for the most part, he does not need to prove to anyone that he can put the ball in the hoop, especially with a 12.6 ppg average. What he needs to do is stick out and give NBA scouts a reason to select him. Getting his team involved will do just that and from what he has displayed in the last two games, that is starting to take shape.
This Sunday, the Bruins host Notre Dame and Hands should continue with his pass-first mentality against the Irish. If he helps his team get the win, this will improve the perspective of both him and the Bruins among national basketball pundits, shining a light on his individual skills and his ability to lead this talent-laden team to success. Heading down that path seems like a win/win.