In a nutshell, if you are an optimist there is good reason to believe in the offense after UCLA basketball's Australia tour. For an early season game it looked rough at times but good overall. On the other hand, if you are a pessimist there are serious concerns on defense. Yes it is early but in one game it took the UCLA coaches over 2 ½ quarters to figure out how to stop one play. There are reasons for concern that this will be a long term problem.
In this article I will attempt to rate every player and the coaches on offense, defense, and intangibles. Obviously doing this on three game exhibition tour is a bit of folly. That said, a few broad points can be derived. As it is early, I will try to err on the optimist side.
In that spirit, the two of the three best players in each category may be a bit of shock. The best player on defense is the easiest. Aaron Holiday single handedly turned the Brisbane game with his pressure D in the third quarter. He took Brisbane out of their offense and keyed UCLA's run.
But quick who led UCLA in assists for the three game series? The only non-point guard in our four guard lineup, Isaac Hamilton. Hamilton was deadly in all facets of the game. Leaving him alone from the outside he buries the three. Too close or lax, he takes you off the dribble. Double team or a big help he dishes off. Hamilton was almost perfect on offense.
I also want to give a big shout out to Bryce. Bryce did not play a minute point guard. He did not demand the ball and instead focused on what he does best, shooting threes. He was a good three point specialist for UCLA during the 3 game tour and I think he deserves credit in the intangible category for making that adjustment so quickly.
Onto the grades.
Isaac Hamilton A+ on offense, F on Defense, D+ on Intangibles
As above, Isaac was perfect on offense. However, Isaac was just awful on defense. The first game he did not seem to try and was blown by players that would struggle against the best in the Wooden Center. The last game, which was very tightly called, the veteran did not adjust and fouled out in just 21 minutes. On intangibles he seemed to lose his cool and yell a bit at his teammates in that last game. Not very good senior leadership even if his passing was awesome.
Bryce Alford B on offense, D on defense, A+ on Intangibles
Bryce did not seem any different on D. Although some thought he tried at times. On offense, Bryce was great from distance. I would like to see Bryce draw a few more fouls though. He is a great free throw shooter. But again, it was nice to see him adjust so well to playing off the ball.
Aaron Holiday C on offense, A+ on Defense, A on Intangibles
Aaron Holiday played a lot of point and led UCLA in turnovers. Some were bad. He still plays a bit out of control. As a point guard he is a work in progress. However, no one of the team worked harder. Holiday had 6 block shots and 19 rebounds! He hustled all over the place. Holiday made his case why he has to be on the floor.
Thomas Welsh B on offense, C on Defense, D on intangibles
Welsh was deadly on offense and his jumper seemed unstoppable. Welsh struggled at times on D, although he was okay on the defensive boards. The reason for the low intangible grade is Welsh rarely posted up. He was always the tallest guy on the floor. At times the offense needed him to post or roll to the basket. It was one of Isaac's yells at Welsh for not going to the hoop. I don't think Isaac should be doing it but his point was valid. We need Thomas to make the leap and become a better post player. He did not show it this trip.
Ike Anigbogu A- on offense, F on Defense, A on intangibles
How can I rate Ike higher on offense than Welsh? After all Welsh(15-25) shot better than Ike (11-21). Well Ike had more offense rebounds 13-8 and did more damage at the free throw line 10-12 versus Welsh's ZERO free throws. Ike was a true Center giving this team an option down low and inside. Ike was best when Isaac drove and dished to him for the dunk. But it was more than that, he changed the game as the other teams bigs down low had to worry about him crashing the boards or dunking off a pass. Welsh was deadly with the jumper but we have a number of deadly jump shooters. Only one guy was a force near the rim.
However, Ike was awful on defense. He never boxed out. He was out of position almost every possession. In high school, Ike can be a one man zone near the rim. That does not work in college. Welsh was better on the defense boards, while Ike often got beat by a much lesser athlete who was taken advantage of Ike's failure to box out.
The A on intangibles is what has me salivating. Ike has great hands and is coordinated. His best play was as he was jumping, Lonzo Ball threw him a low pass which he not only caught but converted from four feet. It has been years since UCLA has had a big that can do this. He also shot 83%!!! from the free throw line. He will draw fouls. If he can keep this up, UCLA has its best true post in years.
TJ Leaf B on Offense, C on Defense, A on intangibles
Leaf had the play of the three game series for UCLA when he grabbed a defense rebound went coast-to-coast and passed an alley-oop to Lonzo Ball. He showed the best big man dribble and passing skills at four since Kyle Anderson's freshman year. Actually, he was a lot like Kyle, if Kyle was shoot first instead of pass first. TJ scored in every fashion possible. The only reason for the B is TJ shot in every fashion possible. He needs to learn that not every shot is a good one.
On defense, in the game we did not see, he stunk on the boards. Otherwise he did a good job on the defensive boards. This is the most important thing for him on defense.
On the intangibles, Lonzo Ball and TJ have a very special connection. It was fun to watch. This could be something great.
Lonzo Ball D- on offense, F on Defense, and C on intangibles
Lonzo Ball, UCLA's star freshman, was, at best, their fourth-best perimeter player. Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford and sophomore Aaron Holiday all played well and posted impressive numbers on the three-game trip. Ball? He didn't shoot well. At all. In UCLA's 47-point opening win, he was 3-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-3 from three, putting together was was by far his best shooting performance of the trip. In the three games, he shot a total of 25 percent (9-36) from the field and 19 percent (4-21) from three. He did average 5.0 assists and, in one game, notched 13 boards, but Ball's ability to shoot will be something to keep an eye on.
Ball did have some nice passes and did have a better fourth quarter in the last game. But his ugly- technique-shot was, well, ugly.
His defense was worse. The last game Ball was torched so often his body must be covered in burns. More disturbingly he did not even get his hands up to contest many shots. He did show some skill in defending in the open court, picking off some passes. But in a half court set, he was terrible.
When his shot was not falling I wanted to see Ball drive inside. He finally did that in the fourth quarter of the last game. He did show his athletic ability at times with some great leaps and 13 rebounds. But there were times when he just kept jacking threes and getting frustrated.
In the end I agree with Matt that you can't take too much away and Ball did show elite athleticism and passing skills.
Alex Olesinski Offense A, Defense C, Intangibles A
Alex looked so much more comfortable on the floor and hit some nice threes. He rebounded okay but did not distinguish himself on the floor on defense.
Gyrgory Goloman Offense B, Defense D, Intangibles N/A
GG was good on offense taking what was given him. Besides the vastly inferior first opponent he was not very good on the boards. This is a big concern for our backup four.
Coaching Offense B, Defense F, Intangibles A
The offense was sloppy and a bit too individual at times but the team overall looked good and roles seemed define. A good start.
The defense was awful. In all three games UCLA was superior athletically. Yet at times UCLA was embarrassed on D. The last game especially the coaches had to plan for the switch that the Brisbane Bullets ran over and over with Ball getting destroyed. That was not a tough adjustment even in a preseason game with Brisbane, an inferior athletic team destroying UCLA inside.
I gave Steve Alford and staff an A for intangibles because everyone started and he changed up the rotations and starting lineups. This is what you should do on an exhibition tour.
So glass half-full, the offense is potentially amazing with every imaginable kind of weapon. Glass half empty, great offense won't matter if the defense is non-existent.