An NBA point guard? Please he went 1-11 with ugly turnovers against West Virginia in his first start at point and looked worse than Bryce Alford ever looked at point. Why make a great athlete, strong and phenomenal dunker but crappy outside shooter take a large number of his shots from the three point line? On a team soft inside why make your best and smartest. slow-footed big guy into a small forward on the perimeter? These all things Ben Howland did to UCLA players and he was right*(maybe).
Howland worked on Russell Westbrook as a point guard at UCLA where he now stars in the NBA despite that first game against West Virginia discussed above. Howland played Norman Powell(NP4) as a perimeter shooting guard where he was NBA rookie of the month in April. Howland started Kyle Anderson as a small forward where he now exclusively plays for arguably the best coach in the NBA Greg Popovich.
This brings up an interesting point to discuss before the draft tomorrow. What is a coach's duty? Is it to prepare elite talents like the above for the NBA? That is what Howland said he was doing at UCLA and it was his sales pitch. His complicated, relatively slow offense with a number of plays cost UCLA some games every season early in the year. However, along with teaching defense, it made the players better prepared for the NBA.
A little more on each on the eve of this years NBA Draft. When Russell Westbrook was drafted so shockingly high as a point guard even UCLA fans scoffed. I guess you can argue that Russell has so much talent and determination he was bound to succeed at anything. You can also say that he was really the backup point guard only by default, so not a great example of the principle above.
Norman Powell is more interesting. Powell shot 53% from three in the month he won rookie of the month. Norman shot 40% from three for the season from three shooting 89 of his 229 shot attempts from three. Along with his tough defense Norman showed he belonged in the NBA as a two guard. The years of Howland seemingly wasting NP4 as a shooting guard may have been just in the long term for NP4. NP4 after four years of college was ready for the NBA.
Kyle Anderson is still a work in progress. Kyle Anderson played 78 games last year with 11 starts as a small forward for a very good San Antonio Spurs team. At the beginning of his freshman year, Kyle started at three for UCLA and looked lost. UCLA was so desperate for rebounding and Ben Howland was coaching for his job, so Kyle was moved to power forward. But Howland knew Kyle's future in the NBA was as a three or small forward.
So what does this mean? Especially in the cases of NP4 and Kyle Anderson, Howland was right in the long term for seemingly fitting square pegs in round holes as far as the players' NBA careers go. It is easy for fans to say that it should be both but it does not always work that way. NP4 did not have the outside shot as a college player to play in the pros. Kyle Anderson did not have the ability to play outside without the ball in his hands as a college player.
Is that a college coach's job? I sure loved watching Kyle play point and NP4 drive to the hoop. I sure hated losing to lesser teams early in the season while the players were forced into roles they were not ready for.
Put your thoughts in the comments.