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UCLA Basketball: How Important Are Athletes

UCLA has some good players but does it have enough athletes?

How important is Norman Powell's athletic ability to UCLA this season?
How important is Norman Powell's athletic ability to UCLA this season?
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

This latest video of Zach LaVine got me thinking. How important is being a great athlete to being a great basketball player? LaVine obviously is a pretty amazing jumper but so is Norman Powell. Powell and LaVine are two outstanding athletes on a team that does not seem very athletic.

As Chrissorr points out all line ups seem to begin with Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson. Kyle Anderson may be the slowest, least athletic guy to play major minutes at UCLA in a long time. Now Kyle has a good basketball body in that he is not only tall but long. But his nickname of "slo-mo" is not one you ever associate with a Point Guard or an athlete.

Scouts look down on Jordan Adams because he is not an outstanding athlete. Jordan is the same height as Shabazz but I don't remember any dunks by Jordan. Jordan has a high basketball IQ and uses his length and savvy to defend well. But again is not going to overwhelm anyone with his physical abilities.

Next comes Travis Wear. I don't think there is way around Travis playing serious minutes next year. I think many are too hard on Travis for before his injuries, Travis carried the team through some key wins last year. But Travis is at his best hitting the mid-range jumper and a match up nightmare for other bigs because of his unique game. Travis is not effective because he is an overwhelming physical presence inside. He again is not a great athlete.

Then comes Bryce Alford who can shoot the lights out if stories are to be believed. None of those stories talk of explosiveness, hops, or anything athletic. The tapes don't show it either. He is another non-athlete.

Noah Allen was only a three star and the first thing you hear about him is he is smart and could have gone to Harvard. This is damming scout talk for not a great athlete. (Kind of like the girl with a great personality.) David Wear is just a lesser version of his brother Travis.

That leaves Tony Parker and Wannah Bail. Bail is an athlete but is hurt and raw. Unlikely to have an impact this season even if he is eligible. (The question of his eligibility is not a matter of academics but rather regarding his transfer.)

Parker it is hard to say because we did not see much of him last year. Parker may be strong enough to be considered athletic inside for a 5. He is certainly not speedy and has not shown great jumping ability.

What this really means is this is a team that will likely be un-athletic unless Powell starts living up to the hype and LaVine can contribute fairly quickly.

This is a flaw that will likely not get exposed right away. In pre-Pac 12 games many opponents will not have great athletes. Mid-majors have some good players but rarely players with overwhelming athletic ability. However, once the PAC 12 season starts, the other teams will have athletes.

Many think of athletes as quick point guards such as the incredible Jahii Carson of ASU that will be a match up problem. What about guys like Mike Moser for Oregon and Aaron Gordon and the other bigs for Arizona? Brendan Lane for years was a great example of a guy that could play effectively with the players of the mid-majors but was a push over for the faster and stronger players of the PAC 12. The better athletes of the PAC 12 will create problems for this un-athletic team.

To be clear, not every player needs to be a great athlete. Kevin Love is not a great athlete but is a great player. But even Kevin's UCLA team had Luc Richard Mbah a Moute who such a good athlete he could cover three positions. Howland's first final four was keyed by the play of awakening of Ryan Hollins, an amazing athlete that was a high school high jumping champ.

Of course, unlike Howland, Steve Alford does not regard zone as the great plague but should use it. Zone can help a less athletic team. Parker could be a beast inside.

But it still seems that Alford had better have Powell and/or LaVine ready to step up and play big minutes especially on defense come the start of the PAC 12. Will Alford be able to free Powell? Where Powell's issues Howland related? Will Alford be able to find minutes for LaVine? How soon will LaVine be able to put his superior athletic ability to use for the Bruins?

Alford has a good building blocks with Adams and Anderson. He will need to compliment them with some athletes such as LaVine, Powell and maybe Parker.

Go Bruins!