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2019 NBA Draft Profile: UCLA’s Jaylen Hands Should Keep His Chin Up

Jaylen Hands did improve last year. Was it enough to make the NBA?

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Of the three Bruins who declared for the NBA draft, Jaylen Hands may be the most ready for the NBA. Hands led the Bruins last year in assists, steals and free throw percentage. Actually, Hands not only led the Bruins but he lead the Pac-12 in assists by a significant margin: one assist per game. This was from a guy who most doubted could even play point before the season.

Of course, there are a lot of caveats on Hands’ numbers. Starting with this was a terrible Pac-12 and not a good UCLA team. He also had a whopping 3.2 turnovers per game. His 78% free throw percentage is certainly respectable, but not that good for a team leader and this was a horrendous free throw shooting team.

But beyond the numbers why do I think Hands is the most ready? It is because Hands improved last year on many of the things he needed to improve on as a player. Despite what people may think, Hands is an NBA-level athlete. However, he is not as strong as say Norman Powell to be an off guard. So, he needed to improve his point guard skills. He did do that. During his freshman year, he had a tendency to play out of control. He did a much better job last year and actually became the MVP of the 2018-19 Bruins. He was not padding his stats against bad teams either. He had his best game—Oregon, arguably the Pac-12’s best team. Here’s a little highlight from that game:

Hands scored all of his 27 points in the second half when he led a 19-point comeback to help UCLA win 90-83 on Saturday night. . . .

The Ducks led 53-38 when the Bruins took over.

They ran off 17 straight points, including three consecutive 3-pointers by Hands, to take their first lead of the game, 55-53. Hands added a pair of free throws and a fast-break layup during the spurt.

”It seemed like he couldn’t miss, especially on that shot that was from almost half-court,” said Oregon’s Paul White, who had 18 points.

Highlights of that game are below.

But, of course, Hands has weaknesses. While he did improve his point guard skills, his defense remains a question. He did stop the wild shots, for the most part, but shot selection is still a work in progress.

While has three Bruins going in the second round with Hands going 55, a lot of people think he won’t get drafted. ESPN probably is closer when it ranks him 87th.

Honestly, I wish him the best. I think he should have stayed one more year to work with a DEFENSIVE coach that would improve that part of his game. That said, Hands did show a willingness to learn and work on his game. Hands may make it in the NBA one day even if he does not get drafted.

I will close by saying that Jaylen did not get enough credit for his leadership. While his half against Oregon last year and his three threes against Arizona the year before were key to big wins, his class move of lifting Moses Brown chin may be one of his most memorable moments.

Thanks Jaylen. Good luck in the NBA or wherever the next step takes you.