UCLA Week: Running Down The ReturneesPosted by AMurawa on August 15th, 2012
Five significant Bruins return for Ben Howland this season, a quintet that will be called upon to quickly meld with four freshmen and a newly eligible transfer. Below we’ll break down those returnees in order of their per-game scoring averages last season.
Travis Wear, Junior, Forward (11.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG) – In his first season in Westwood, Travis, the younger of the two Wear twins by a minute, was the most efficient offensive player on the team. Combining excellent shooting percentages (53.3% from the field and a 57.9% true shooting rate) with terrific rebounding numbers (his 13.2% offensive rebound rate was in the top 70 in the nation last year), Travis proved himself to be an adept competitor in and around the lane. More capable of slashing to the basket and finishing off-balance opportunities than his brother, he also shone on the defensive end, finishing second to Anthony Stover with more than a block per game. After being away from on-court action for more than a year due to his transfer from North Carolina, Travis became more comfortable as the season went on, recording three double-doubles in his final eight games of the year. While his role will likely be similar in the 2012-13 season, expect him to step away from the hoop a bit more and rely on his good mid-range jumper, clearing up the lane not only for big man Joshua Smith, but also for freshman slashers Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. One disturbing number from 2011-12 does need to change, however. In 786 minutes of court time, he tallied a grand total of 13 assists.
David Wear, Junior, Forward (10.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG) – UCLA opened last season with six different players who were primarily power forwards or centers fighting for minutes. With no other pure small forward on the squad, it was a foregone conclusion that one of those six bigs would have to spend some time out of position at the three. David was that guy, spending at least some time at the three despite his 6’10” frame and comfort around the basket. David still wound up as the team’s leading rebounder, snatching 6.3 rebounds per game, with more than 65% of those boards came on the defensive end. Offensively, he showed an ability to hit the three-point shot, shooting 46.7% from deep, albeit in less than one three-point attempt per game. In 2012-13, with the UCLA roster more balanced and with more talent at the three (Shabazz Muhammad is a lead-pipe cinch to get the majority of the minutes there, with Kyle Anderson and even Tyler Lamb and Jordan Adams potentially getting some time there), David will likely shift back solely to the four, although much like his brother, will be a bit more of a stretch four offensively.
Joshua Smith, Junior, Center (9.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG) – When Smith was a freshman weighing in somewhere north of 300 pounds, one of the excuses made for his weight was that his knee injury in his senior year of high school limited his ability to get in good condition prior to his arrival in Westwood. Whatever the reason, his weight and its effect on his conditioning and foot speed led to him only being able to play about 21 minutes per game. He was often earthbound and his inability to move his feet quickly led to him committing nearly six fouls per 40 minutes, often landing him on the pine with serious foul trouble. But, not to worry. He had a whole offseason to improve his conditioning prior to his sophomore season, right? Well, that didn’t go so well either as he reported back to school heavier and in significantly worse shape than during his freshman season, prompting Fox Sports’ announcer Marques Johnson’s brilliant line, “Whoever is listing Josh Smith at 305 pounds must be dyslexic.” Early in his sophomore year, Smith struggled to get up and down the court more than twice before he was huffing and puffing like a weekend warrior. His playing time dropped to 17 MPG and his fouls committed jumped to 7.4 infractions per 40 minutes. For a 6’10” guy with soft hands and a deft command of post moves, this was a significant waste of talent. When he played, he was capable of producing offensively. As a sophomore he used the greatest percentage of possessions and shots on the team, converting a 58.5% true shooting rate, dominating the offensive glass (16 OR%) and getting to the line with regularity. But his production regularly dropped the longer he spent in the game, sending opponents to the free throw line and causing Howland to search for answers on the bench. This offseason, once again, reports are that Smith is finally serious about his weight loss, having reportedly lost more than 15 pounds. If there are another 40 or so on their way off his frame, this could be the year Smith’s prodigious talent outshines his prodigious body.
Tyler Lamb, Junior, Guard (9.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG. 2.8 APG. 1.7 SPG) – Lamb’s first year in the blue and gold was, in a word, terrible. He earned more than 12 minutes a game but struggled shooting the ball (20.5% from three, 40.7% true shooting rate), turned it over too much, and finished with an offensive efficiency rating of just 78.5 (according to KenPom.com). Last year he improved almost across the board, with his court time skyrocketing to more than 30 MPG, but the rest of his numbers improved to just below-average rather than awful. Notching 120 three-point shots, he shot 35.8% from behind the arc, hit a 51.3% true shooting rate and turned the ball over on almost 24% of all of his possessions. But, his biggest improvement came on the defensive end, where he became the Bruins’ best perimeter defender, using his length and quick hands to lead the team in steals. This year he’ll have to become more consistent to keep the same number of minutes he played last year, with Muhammad, Anderson, Larry Drew II and sophomore Norman Powell all challenging him for run.
Norman Powell, Sophomore, Guard (4.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.2 APG) – Powell was UCLA’s most athletic player as a freshman, a title he’ll struggle to hold onto next season. But all too often, Powell negated his athletic ability offensively and bailed out his defenders by settling for three-point attempts. Nearly half of his field goal attempts came from deep (he hit 34.7% of those attempts), but he also struggled off the bounce and in the mid-range game, converting just 40.5% of his two-point attempts. Worse yet, he rarely attacked offensively, as evidenced by his grand total of 15 free throw attempts in almost 600 minutes of action. Still, Powell’s athletic gifts are significant and he has the ability to become a lock-down defender; however, he’ll have to prove that he has made great strides in the offseason to so much as sniff a starting spot.