On paper, UCLA looks like a team that should be able to compete for a Pac-12 crown, a trip to the Final Four, and maybe even a national title.
That’s what happens when you stock talents like Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Joshua Smith on the same roster.
But the Bruins have plenty of question marks, as well. Like, for starters, Anderson’s thumb injury. He underwent surgery and still isn’t cleared for contact. Muhammad suffered a sprained ankle working out a couple of weeks ago, and there is a very good chance that he ends up being suspended for a handful of games at the start of the season as well. And, of course, there’s Smith’s weight. Will he ever be in shape?
None of this is the biggest issue that UCLA faces next season, in my humble opinion. As far as this blogger is concerned, where UCLA needs to be concerned is at the point guard spot. The slow-footed, 6-foot-7 Anderson is a terrific play-maker, but it is difficult to player point guard at a championship level when you are slow-footed and 6-foot-7.
If that’s the way this plays out, then the Bruins will be relying on the one and only Larry Drew to run their team:
Ben Howland took Larry Drew II into his office Monday to continue coaching his mind as much as his playmaking skills. He needs both from Drew for UCLA to be a Pac-12 champ in the upcoming season. The North Carolina transfer has one season to play for the Bruins but he is the only true playmaker for UCLA. “He has the quickness and speed that we haven’t seen since Darren Collison,’’ said Howland. “He’s a very good decision maker. He’s gotten much stronger and improved his body. We have high expectations for him.’’
I want to feel good about this UCLA team next season. I really do. But there are so many question marks surrounding the program that I just cannot picture them putting it all together for an entire season.