The NBA has the 5-5 part of its Combine today at noon on ESPN. Thomas Welsh will be there but Aaron Holiday as an alternate will not be there. Welsh and Holiday are the two UCLA players that declared for the draft but did not hire agents. They can still go pro or return to UCLA. Their situations are very different; both personally and from a UCLA perspective.
First, Aaron Holiday was an alternate and apparently not attending. This is important to UCLA and Steve Alford. If Aaron goes pro now, it is a major fail for Alford as Holiday seems likely to go undrafted. Holiday is desperately needed as the team will only have ONE point guard, a freshman. Holiday will be one of the stars and a starter next year. More importantly for Holiday’s future, it will be a chance to prove he can be a point guard, not a lead guard and part time point. (Of course that freshman, Jaylen Hands, could beat him out but this is where Steve Alford skills at keeping players are needed. Without Holiday, we are down to one point guard, and really no guard depth. )
Holiday should come back for the team and himself.
Next up is Thomas Welsh. Welsh is reviewed by NBA scouts according to ESPN as follows:
Thomas Welsh, UCLA Bruins
The 7-foot junior is solid from midrange. He had a nice season, averaging 10.8 PPG and 8.7 RPG per game. The NBA folks all agree he's a second-rounder who should return to the Bruins, especially with all that the UCLA lost, including T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu up front. "I like him, but he's going to struggle in pick-and-roll," one NBA executive told ESPN. "He needs to go back, because he'll be more of a focal point with all the young guys they have coming in."
Range: 45 to 60
NBA says: Back to school
This one is really interesting. Let’s take all the points.
Unlike Holiday, UCLA could afford to lose Welsh. It would hurt, don’t get me wrong, but UCLA would have Jalen Hill, Cody Riley to go with Gyorgy Goloman. Alex Olesinski and Chris Smith give UCLA additional bodies to play the four and five. Even next year’s best recruit, Kris Wilkes, at 6’8” could probably play a few minutes as a four. Really it might be a nice mix of the young and talented (Hill and Riley) with the old and crafty (GG). It is better with Welsh but it is not as devastating as if Holiday leaves.
Next point, and I hate to say this, what does Welsh gain NBA draft wise by staying? I am not sure Welsh will ever be a first rounder. He could start shooting threes which would help his game as a stretch five. He is not going to get more athletic. (Although he could get stronger.) I think Welsh is close to a finished product.
The gamble comes in the next part “because he'll be more of a focal point with all the young guys coming in.” Welsh is a guy who needs someone to get him the ball. In Lonzo’s last season he had a great point guard. Next year he’ll have Holiday (who is still a work in progress as a point) or Hands who will be a freshman. Will they be able to get him the ball? Also, don’t forget Welsh is ill suited to a fast paced game. If UCLA runs all the time as Steve Alford says they like to do, Welsh’s offense may suffer a bit.
Thus, despite what the NBA executives say in the ESPN article (actually they want everyone to stay), Welsh leaving may make sense. Either way is a gamble. I guess if Welsh does well today, he should leave. If not or struggles, he should come back. That is just my opinion.
What is not just my opinion is that UCLA would be better if both Welsh and Holiday come back. What is not my opinion is we are facing a point crisis if Holiday does not come back.