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More Post-Draft Musings: Polishing The UCLA Basketball Brand

Wanted to follow up with few more notes to close the loop on UCLA’s big Thursday night party in NYC. Yesterday, I mentioned how going to Minnesota probably means that Love will have to compete for time against Jefferson. Meriones had a different take on that point:

I’m not sure KLove will be competing with Jefferson for starting spot.

I think he’ll be starting NEXT to him come the All-Star Break.

Jefferson is closer to an NBA PF, but given his post-moves and size (6-10 in shoes, 255 lbs.), and the lack of it on that roster, they have him starting at C. KL’s mid-range game may have him playing the 4 right next to him.

Nowadays, if you can’t have a true, 7-foot NBA C, the Detroit model shows you can succeed with good old-fashioned strength and toughness with a PF and C each running about 6-9 to 6-11.

Add in that Mike Miller got thrown in the deal, and I’d say KL may actually be going to a better TEAM, and I NEVER thought I’d say that about anything involving Kevin McHale.

I think this just proves that the Memphis GM is the dumbest one on earth. Giving away TWO versatile, inside-outside scoring, very good passing big men within six months??? Geez.

I am going to defer to M on this one because I am assuming he follows NBA action lot more closely than I do. Regardless it looks Minnesota fans such as Stop-n-Pop, the prolific SBN blogger representing the Wolves at Canis Hoopus echoed M’s point about that Memphis GM gave away the store:

I'm super hyped about it.  The Wolves got rid of their worst contract, Toine, a bad contract in Buckner, and Mayo for the best big available, a solid NBA starting 3 who will stretch the hell out of sagging defenses, an expiring contract on a center, and they shaved one year off of Marko's bad deal by taking a guy they could probably buy out.  Meanwhile, they took the best Euro big in the draft and stashed him away until Collins' money comes off the books when they can bring him over.  This is a brilliant f'ing draft.

Stop-n-Pop also highligted John Hollinger from ESPN’s arguments on how Minnesota made out on Mayo-Love swap:

Love is, in my estimation, the better of the two prospects.

This is clearly not the consensus opinion; if it was, the Grizzlies wouldn't have thrown so much extra into this trade to get Mayo. But Love's numbers project him as a much better NBA player. And big guys have traditionally been more valued than guards in the NBA; hence the adage, "Don't trade big for small."

Love is a better fit in Minnesota than Mayo.

The Wolves already have plenty of 6-foot-4 wing players (Randy Foye, Rashad McCants) and a shortage up front, where Love's ability to shoot and pass will keep the lane open for Al Jefferson to dominate. Obviously the Jefferson-Love combo raises some concerns at the defensive end, since neither is especially tall or moves well laterally, but offensively they could be devastating.

Guess we will be checking the Wolves box scores every now and then in the coming years. We also be keeping an eye on another Midwestern team- the Bucks – to keep track of our prince. Frank Madden from Brew Hoop is already getting comfortable with using the initials LRMAM:

Mbah a Moute was in the June 6 workout with Alexander, so the Bucks saw both of their picks in action against one another at the Cousins Center.  Plenty of chatter wondering why Chris Douglas-Roberts wasn't taken here, which I think is a very fair question, and you can also wonder if the Bucks should have gone big with a guy like Richard Hendrix.  But this wasn't a huge surprise, as Alex mentioned LRMAM in our second round preview yesterday. Mbah a Moute averaged just 9 ppg in each of his three seasons at UCLA and will never have the offensive game of those guys, but he does bring above average athleticism and excellent defense--which will give him a great chance to be a quality role player.  As Dave Babcock alluded to after the pick, this is another move aimed at boosting the Bucks' athleticism and defensive chops.

Speaking of athleticism and defensive chops, let’s shift our attention the Pacific Northwest, where Sam Presti, the Sonics GM gave his reasons for selecting RW (emphasis added):

Presti said he wanted to draft high-character players who enjoyed success in college but were still years from peaking. That description fits Westbrook, who improved exponentially from his freshman to sophomore seasons, increasing his scoring average by more than nine points.

"It's been real crazy," Westbrook said of his ascent over the past two years. "Every day I just thank God and I'm blessed every day. I work my tail off every day to try to become the best player I can possibly become. Now it's finally here and I have to start all over again so I've got to do the same thing again."

Westbrook likely will be mentored by former UCLA guard Earl Watson, who is coming off a career season for the Sonics. The organization is hoping Westbrook is the answer to its lingering point-guard issues. Seattle has struggled at the position since the departure of Gary Payton in 2003.

"We also think he may be the hardest worker in the draft," Presti said. "His improvement comes from that. We look at that as a benefit. He has come a long way in a short amount of time. We think there's tremendous growth ahead for him."

Presti said he asked many draft prospects about the toughest player they opposed, and the consensus answer was Westbrook.

"People have tremendous respect for him," Presti said. "That kind of character and defensive mentality is what we're attracted to."

RW and Watson are going to make it difficult to root against the Sonics if the Lakers take on them in a future playoff game (the same feeling I have these days when they are taking on the Golden State Warriors). Kind of like the feeling you get when you see your younger siblings competing directly against each other. It's an awesome one.

Let's get back to the traits - character and defense - Presti alluded to above. I guess we are not the only ones who appreciate the virtues that make up a prototype Ben Ball warriors. BTW Presti also said this about UCLA basketball while chatting about RW:

"Russell Westbrook is, in our opinion, the best perimeter defender in the draft," Presti said. "We had him targeted from early in the year. He is a competitor, and he is the ultimate teammate. Obviously he comes from a winning background at UCLA."

As few of you have already pointed out  during the discussion here last couple of days recruits around the country will pay attention to these assessments from the NBA circle, while tuning out the so called experts who pop up during tourney season to concern troll about the style of UCLA basketball.

Howland has not only polished up the unmatched brand of UCLA basketball, he has turned it into the hottest program in America.