In the 2014 NBA Draft, three players from the UCLA Men’s Basketball team were selected in the first round. Two of the players were selected by teams with glaring holes on their rosters. One was selected by a championship team where it may be difficult to crack the rotation. I am going to break down each Bruin and tell you how I think each will fare during their rookie campaign.
One could make the argument that Zach LaVine was the rawest out of all the first round draft picks this year not named Bruno Caboclo. There were moments at UCLA where he really looked like an up and coming superstar player. He had good handles, was able to make a good percentage of his three-point attempts, and his high-flying dunks were ridiculous. But he showed just how raw he was at times. When the games were slowed down and possessions became more meaningful, Zach struggled, especially as the season wore on. In the NCAA tournament he scored just 8 points in 3 games. He looked like a raw freshman.
With the Minnesota Timberwolves taking him with the 13th pick overall, they are taking a gamble and hoping that Zach’s supreme athleticism will translate into him becoming a solid rotational player. I’ve heard people who get excited and guarantee that LaVine will blossom into a Russell Westbrook type (another former Bruin, by the way). Zach LaVine has played zero professional NBA minutes. He could potentially be better than Westbrook. I just don’t see LaVine becoming quite the player Westbrook is. I like Zach LaVine and I think that he will be a good NBA player, but Russell Westbrook was significantly better coming out of college. You knew that at the very worst, Russell would be an elite defender.
LaVine may have a tough go of it based on which team he was drafted by. If Kevin Love gets traded, LaVine will not have an elite player to grow alongside of. Westbrook was fortunate to be plugged in to play alongside Kevin Durant. It does not seem that LaVine will be afforded the same luxury. He’s ridiculously athletic, but if he can’t hit shots or turns it over at a high rate due to the fact that he may not have a superstar player to take up most of opposing defenses’ attention.
That being said, I think LaVine can be a good NBA player. I believe that a lot of it will depend on what happens with Kevin Love. If Kevin Love sticks around and the Wolves are competitive, then LaVine will have less of an offensive burden and be able to develop nicely with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. If Love leaves, the Wolves will not be very good and LaVine will be playing a lot more minutes than he should be playing and getting a lot more shots than he should be taking. I do think that it will hurt his development. I do hope that Minnesota will be able to tap into LaVine’s potential.
I really liked the Jordan Adams to Memphis pick. I’ve been a big Adams fan since his freshman year. I can always get on board when a team picks a player who fills a need for them. Memphis has had struggles with their offense for some time now. Their backcourt has consistently lacked someone capable of creating his own shot and spacing the floor. It’s difficult to imagine him starting right away, but he should be getting a significant amount of playing time.
Jordan Adams has what some would call an ‘old man’s game’. He isn’t going to show any great speed, elite athleticism or break people down off the dribble, but for a two-guard, he’s big and he knows how to put the ball in the hoop. He was UCLA’s most consistent offensive player for the past two years–this guy can play in the NBA.
While watching Adams in Summer League, he was able to get his shot off. Going up against the Thunder squad that had Steven Adams, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones, three guys that play meaningful rotation minutes on a very good team, Adams scored 22 points.
For the most part, Jordan Adams was the most impressive player on the court for the Memphis Grizzlies Summer League Squad. There are minutes to be had at the shooting guard spot in Memphis, and Jordan Adams should be able carve out a nice role for himself.
Kyle Anderson is one of the more intriguing players from this draft. There are still a lot of questions about his game. Is he a point guard? A point forward? I honestly do not know. I had the chance to see him live in Summer League. Again, it’s Summer League, but he looked confident and comfortable handling the ball and running the offense. But at times there were two other point guards on the court with him and he would stand in the corner doing nothing. He obviously has a huge size advantage over any point guard in the NBA. The downside is that Kyle Anderson is at a disadvantage when it comes to speed and quickness. His nickname is “Slow Mo,” after all!
Kyle can definitely play, and I believe that going to a team like the San Antonio Spurs is perfect for him and his skill-set. They are a team that doesn’t require their players to beat people off the dribble. And they seem to maximize player’s skills while hiding any deficiencies within their game. Nothing but beautiful ball movement, and that is something Kyle can do. He’s a great passer who is capable of getting to the rim and finding his teammates and creating opportunities for them to score.
However, I do not know what the Spurs actually have planned for Kyle Anderson. I do not know if they plan on having him on the active NBA roster. He could spend time in the D-League. If they plan on having him be a point guard or another ball-handler for them, he could hold that role down for them until Patty Mills recovers from his injury. If they decide to play him at the small forward position, it could be a problem for him and he could really struggle with people of similar size and superior athleticism guarding him. As a one-on-one defender, Kyle might struggle a lot. However, he is a smart basketball player and if he can understand the concepts of team defense then he should be just fine.
It is always a sad sight when your favorite college team loses players to the NBA while still having eligibility. You always want guys to stick around help the team play deep into late-March and early-April. But the really good players usually don’t stick around for more than 1-2 years, and these three Bruins that entered the NBA draft were good players.
I will never root against the local guys, so here’s to hoping that LaVine, Adams, and Anderson all have great rookie seasons.