First of all having Noah Allen on the UCLA team is a good thing, for UCLA. For the later years under Howland and ever since, UCLA starters suffered for having to practice against walk-ons. Gone are the days when starter Bill Walton practiced against future NBA rebounding champ Swen Nater. More recently, I think it really helped Darrin Collison on both sides of the equation when as an ultra-quick raw freshman backup he was matched up against savvy future NBA point guard Jordan Farmar and as a sophomore starter when DC was matched up against future NBA All-Star and then phenomenal but raw better athlete Russell Westbrook.
But that has not been happening recently. Shoot, for the later Howland years by the end of the season after the inevitable transfers, UCLA basketball starters were matching up against walk-ons in practice. This was a part of the problem last year for point guard Bryce Alford. In practice, Bryce was matched up against the likes of walk-on senior David Brown who in his last three years was 4-16 with 4 assists and 9 turnovers all in garbage time. This had to hurt Bryce when he played against infinitely better D-1 point guards. Bryce was rarely, if ever, a better athlete than the guy he matched up against in games, yet he was the better athlete every day in practice .
Compare this to Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh who were the perfect practice partners at the 5. Tony had the opportunity to practice against a very good shot blocker who was tall. The perfect match up for the short-for-a-center Tony Parker. Welsh had the chance to learn how to use his height in the post against a much stronger and talented experienced low post player. Welsh was most improved and that was in part due to play against his opposite Parker in practice.
That brings me to Noah Allen. Noah Allen, unlike Brown, is a legitimate D-1 athlete. Noah Allen, unlike, say, Thomas Welsh, has a ceiling that may limit his upside at the high major level. For Noah is in reality an undersized four. Noah can't shoot. For his career, Noah is 4-27 from three and two of those makes were banks. (No one calls bank from three.) It is not just outside shots either; Noah is 17-34 from the free throw line. So, with no defense, he still only shoots 50%.
Noah has shown some hops over the years. Noah is a good teammate in that he plays defense and is always willing to pass. He had more assists than makes last season.
However, Noah Allen is definitely not a guy you want play guard or even 3 as he can't shoot outside and has a shaky handle. Yet, Noah played most of his minutes last year at the two guard spot for Bryce or Hamilton. While he did back up Norman Powell as well, later in the season that task went to GG at times. Noah, the undersized 4, was mostly a backup 2.
NOAH'S BEST GAME
In 12 of UCLA 18 PAC 12 games Noah played 10 or less minutes. His most minutes came in the PAC-12 Tournament against Arizona when Isaac Hamilton was in foul trouble and his most points came against a team with a D-III level coach in just$C. His best game may have come in a disastrous loss to Oregon that was the turning point in the season.
Noah didn't score but led UCLA with three assists in that game. While Bryce was playing hero ball and Isaac Hamilton was stinking, Noah was playing team basketball: passing and playing defense. The team was better with the non-shooting Noah on the court than the out-of-control-no-defense Bryce and Isaac. After the game, Norman Powell (NP4) gave his speech about defense and those two woke up some as the season went on. Bryce realized that it was first NP4's team on offense and Isaac realized his role was to pass and play defense before shooting.
I realize this is not exactly a great game for Noah personally. But I have my doubts if Noah can achieve personal greatness on the court at UCLA. He can help others though, mostly in practice, occasionally otherwise. That may be his UCLA role.
ALFORD'S USE OF NOAH
Playing Noah Allen as two guard is a prime example of a square peg in a round hole. However, Steve Alford's failure may have been on recruiting not his use of Noah, per se. I guess one could say that Jordan Adams going pro was unexpected but, in that case, UCLA was one injury away from having no backup 1 or 2. The next option at 2 guard was a walk on like David Brown or, get ready for it, Kory Alford.
But what about playing NP4 at 2 and Noah at 3? This would have been better for Noah but worse for NP4.
On offense NP4 at the college level is arguably more of a three. NP4 is most comfortable attacking the basket. Ideally, your two guard should be your best three shooter. (Of course, that means Bryce was also playing out of position as one.) That is Norman's weakness. Of course, Norman's 32% is literally twice as good as Noah's 16% again. However, at the end of the day Norman is your leading scorer and number one option. You gear the offense to him, not to a sub.
On defense, NP4 was also UCLA's best defender but he had a bigger flaw then his outside shooting on offense. Throughout his career, NP4 fouled a lot. UCLA had to have NP4 on the court. NP4 gets some bad fouls on guards. It was smart to protect him and play him low in the zone as a 3. NP4 is less likely to foul there. Again, this is not ideal for Noah as he is more comfortable down low. But, having Norman on the court on offense and late in the game in man to man on the other team's best guard/swing player is much more important than making Noah comfortable on D.
So before one condemns Steve Alford for his use of Noah consider that every good coach protects his best players. Norman was by far the team's best player last year and it is perfectly reasonable to set the team up around him. Unfortunately, the victim of that during games was Noah Allen.
So Alford use of Noah was perfectly reasonable and for the best of the team as Noah was the best of bad options. However, playing Noah at two and failing to recruit a single backup guard hurt Noah's development as an individual player. Since I have to give a grade, I will give a C. Again, I think Noah was used best for the team, but not for himself.
Because of Noah and assuming no transfers, academic issues, injuries, etc. UCLA will have some depth next year.
At first blush the depth chart looks like
PG Bryce Alford, Aaron Holiday
SG Isaac Hamilton, Prince Ali
SF Noah Allen
PF Jonah Bolden, Gyorgy Goloman, Alex Olesinski
Center Tony Parker, Thomas Welsh, Ikenna Okwarabizie
Reality is something different. Ali and Bolden may get looks at the three. I think Ali is most likely to be the three around the start of the PAC 12. Allen's best position, Power Forward, may have four people competing for it as Alford has indicated Okwarabizie will get a look there. I really doubt that Noah gets much of a look next season.
UCLA has 11 players on scholarship to start the season. For the first time in recent memory, UCLA can go 5-5 in practice without having to play walk-ons. This is, in part, to Noah Allen staying.
UCLA has three or four scholarships for next season:
Ike Anigbogu (Center)
Lonzo Ball (5-Star Point Guard)
Kobe Paras (3-Star Shooting Guard)
Possibly T.J. Leaf (5 Star Power Forward)
To his credit, Alford has UCLA full of D-1 level players on his roster. Next season, he could even practice the top seven or eight (Starters plus top bench players) against a good practice team. Unlike Howland where good players that weren't good enough to crack the starting lineup left (Tyler Lamb, Chance Stanback, for example), they are staying under Alford.
That does not mean the team is balanced as Noah playing two guard last year and the current roster lacking a three this coming season. But in the end thanks for staying Noah for the good of UCLA.