Earlier today, ESPN's NBA analyst Chad Ford has an open chat session with fans about a variety of hoops topics, mostly focused in on the NBA Draft. Of note to UCLA fans, one fan - Jesse from Los Angeles - asked Ford about whether LaVine should have declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman season. The answer was pretty revealing:
Jesse (Los Angeles)
Should Zach LaVine have declared for the draft? I foresee a trip to the D-League based on his abilities at this point. Is a team really willing to use their first round pick in this year's draft on a project like him?
Chad Ford(1:26 PM)
He probably should have stayed at UCLA. He needs to add strength and get more experience. He's not ready to be an impact player in the NBA. But I understand why he did it. The coaches son is playing point guard. He may not have started next year and even if he did, it would be out of position. NBA teams love his shooting ability and explosiveness athletically. He has tremendous upside. Someone will take him in the second half of the first round. He may play in the D-League, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if he gets minutes at the point. He's a long-term play and I think a pretty good one.
Let that sink in for a minute. ESPN's draft analyst is saying that LaVine would benefit from returning to college and it goes without saying that UCLA would certainly benefit from having him stay with the program, since he really should be the starting PG next season. But Ford goes out to point out the blame exactly where we've been saying it lays - Steve Alford and his nepotism. In Ford's view, with Bryce having the inside track on the starting PG gig, not because of his talent, but because he's the coach's son, LaVine's decision to jump to the NBA is pretty understandable.
The takeaway: Zach LaVine is better off in the NBA D-League, playing point, rather than sticking around and wasting a year backing up Bryce Alford thanks to Steve's special brand of #DaddyBall. Pretty sad way to run a basketball program and it's no wonder that PG recruit after PG recruit after PG recruit keep turning UCLA down - why go to Westwood when you know the coach's kid is going to get to start over you?
When the coach's kid getting all the playing time at the expense of the team, it's not cool, but in the bigger scheme of things, it's not the end of the world when you're talking about Little League or AYSO. But not when you're talking about one of the blue-blood programs of college basketball - this is UCLA hoops, not West Los Angeles CYO.