FanPost

Ben Ball 09-10 & ML, JA, DG prospects (update: JK out 4-6 weeks)

Bumped. 27 more days to go. GO BRUINS. -N

Rivals.com has been doing a countdown of college basketball teams. Today they got to number 30. And the 30th best team according to them is our very own UCLA Bruins. The projection:

This season, UCLA coaches might say the one word they haven't had much use for over the past few seasons: "rebuilding." Of course, rebuilding for UCLA might mean a third- or fourth-place finish in the Pac-10 and a low NCAA tournament seed, but it's a changing of the guard nonetheless.

This projection is pretty consistent with the national opinion on CBH's upcoming team. Gary Parrish of cbssports has us outside of his top 26. It is really tough to quibble about this since our team is really a complete question mark. We could wind up being a top 10 team or we could be a middle of the pack Pac-10 team. 

Rivals predicts a starting lineup of ND, DG, TH, ML, and JA. There was no mention of TH's health, but even if he is healthy I doubt he will start. I think JM will have a breakthrough year since he has slimmed down and will be our starting center allowing DG and ND to slide down to the 4 and 3 respectively. I expect TH, MM, and RN to get action this year since they appear to be the most capable of contributing defensively. If TH and MM can play the 2, they will get a lot more time since we are so thin in the backcourt.

Rivals outlook seems about right to me:

UCLA is in transition, but the Bruins have too much talent and too good a coach to take a steep tumble down the Pac-10 standings; it helps that the league will be down this season. UCLA is one of the few teams in the conference that has its strength up front. That could be a major advantage, provided the guards don't get overwhelmed.

For once, we will have a big lineup with plenty of size on the bench. JA and ML may not be able to apply the same level of full court ball pressure that DC provided, especially since it will be important for them to not get fatigued and in foul trouble given our lack of backcourt depth. Having all that size inside should make it difficult for teams to go inside on us and be forced to beat us by shooting 3s and jumpers.

More info on ML, DG, JA, and TH below the jump.

Draftexpress.com, one of the better NBA draft websites (they had RW projected as a top 10 pick BEFORE his sophomore year), has been doing profiles of the top prospects of each conference. Look who is number one in the Pac-10: our very own ML. So snippets from their in-depth analysis of ML's game.

Offensively

Offensively, Lee is at his best in an up-tempo setting, where his terrific athleticism really allows him to shine. He’s often the first one down the court, looking like an absolute jet with or without the ball, and regularly getting to the basket where he can make some very acrobatic plays. He’s an extremely fluid, explosive player, able to change directions on the fly and looking extremely quick and shifty in everything he does. Guards who can pick apart a defense on their own with a blazing first step are all the rage in today’s NBA, and Lee shows the potential to develop into that and much more down the road.

And more importantly, defensively

Defensively, Lee is an absolute menace, already being a shut-down stopper type, but showing even more potential as he continues to grow into his frame. He possesses superb lateral quickness, being capable of getting right in his matchup’s face and sticking with him for long stretches, while showing great intensity in the process. He gets in the passing lanes on a regular basis, and will even come up with an occasional blocked shot. Lee’s willingness to defend, coupled with the frenetic energy he brings to the floor will surely endear him to NBA decision makers, as he’s capable of guarding multiple positions already and still has room to improve down the road.

I look forward to seeing ML live up to his potential. From everything I have seen from him, I fully expect him to be the next great Ben Ball Warrior, but we need to be patient as it won't be overnight.

Coming in at number 7 is DG. In analyzing the numbers, DG was an efficient beast:

Analyzing his production from last season, Gordon’s production and efficiency proved to be greater than his basic numbers could ever show. On a per-40 minute pace adjusted basis, Gordon averaged 13.4 points and 12.7 rebounds a game last season. Those are solid numbers and it will be interesting to see if he can keep up that production with a bigger role and added minutes this season.

If DG can put those numbers up this year, it will go a long way in making for a succesful season. However, DG does have some areas that he needs to work on.

On the few post up opportunities that Gordon had last season, he showed a limited amount of moves, resorting to a mini jump hook over his left shoulder on almost every occasion. He would also get pushed away from the basket too easily, which was due in large part to his high center of gravity and lack of lower body strength. He must learn how to establish and hold a base, which will make for easier post entries from his guards. He has a decent looking shot and had 17 foot range in high school, thus developing a face up game, which was nonexistent last season, would serve him well. Additionally, gaining more confidence with the outside shot will open up options for Howland to use Gordon in pick and pop situations.

Right behind DG at number 8 is JA. JA is probably the most critical player for CBH this season as he is taking over the position of JF and DC and does not have a true backup. For JA, failure really is not an option. First the good:

Looking at Anderson’s game, it’s hard to come to many definitive conclusions based off his limited playing time, often coming when UCLA already had a convincing lead, but a few things can be taken away. Anderson is a steady floor general who runs his team’s offense well, not over-dribbling, moving well without the ball, maintaining good spacing, and distributing the ball among his teammates. He didn’t show much in terms of ability to create off the dribble for others in the lane, however it’s something we’d seen from him in high school and is something to look out for as he grows into his larger role this year.

And the bad that we are well familiar with from the times JA struggled last year.

While Anderson does have good moments with his dribble and can make things happen in the lane, he seems to have a lot of trouble dealing with pressure defense in both the halfcourt and fullcourt, often exposing his dribble to defenders, leading to quite a few steals far away from the basket. Being able to better handle these type of situations will be crucial to his success this season, as it’s something teams will catch onto and abuse if he doesn’t fix it.

Not to be outdone TH was recently picked as one of the sweet 16 freshmen to watch by NBCsports. They lead with an important question:

The big question in Westwood: Which star freshman will Honeycutt resemble -- Kevin Love or Jrue Holiday?

I don't think this is a fair question to TH. He is not a gatorade national player of the year like KL or JH and has none of the hype that those two had. If TH can contribute as much as JH did last year, I think that would be a very productive year for TH and UCLA. Here is a little more of what they have to sa

So Honeycutt, a 6-8 swingman, gets the task of helping to ensure UCLA doesn’t stumble too much after losing four starters from last year’s 26-9 team. Sure, Malcolm Lee, Michael Roll and Nikola Dragovic will be the go-to guys, but don’t discount Honeycutt. He’s a solid shot blocker, rebounder and smart passer.

I think the idea of "helping" is a much better expectation of TH than the superstardom of KL or JH.

I'm going to enjoy watching CRN and football team, but I already have November 4th circled on my calendar for UCLA's first exhibtion game of 2009.

Update: LAT has an injury update. Some good and some bad. First, some bad news for JK.

Keefe dislodged his left shoulder on Tuesday night. He had injured it before, suffering a torn labrum in 2007-08 that forced him to miss 12 games.

After initial X-rays were negative, the senior underwent an MRI and the team expects to receive results later this afternoon.

JA has an injured groin also, but TH appears to be doing well.

Update 2: JK out 4-6 weeks.

The MRI on  his injured left shoulder has come back negative. But instability in the joint will keep him in rehabilitation -- and off the court -- for four to six weeks.

That should put him back in action at roughly the same time the Bruins play their season opener against Cal State Fullerton at Pauley Pavilion on Nov. 16.

"We are very relieved that the injury isn't going to be a long-term one," Coach Ben Howland said in a statement. "Everything looks to be intact and we are very happy for him and for the team."

Get well JK.

Go Bruins!

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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