Some interesting UCLA hoops numbers, Pt. 1

Here are just some things I noticed tonight while looking at some UCLA basketball stats:

Malcolm Lee
* Lee’s scoring is up from last year, as his recent tear has him 1.7 points per game better than last season. He has been UCLA’s best perimeter stopper throughout the season – coach Ben Howland calls him one of the best in the country – and it’s been a surprise to see him leap to the team lead in scoring at 13.8 points per game.

* After moving back to the off-guard spot full time, following a difficult sophomore season bouncing from the one to the two and back and forth, Lee’s assists have dropped drastically (from 3.1 apg to 1.9), while his turnovers remain fairly high at 2.0 per game (down from 2.6) . Lee’s assist-to-turnover ratio of .94 is subpar – for comparison, league-leading Jamelle McMillan of Arizona State is at 2.86 a/t, with 83 assists and 29 turnovers.

* Perhaps the most surprising downturn has been Lee’s rebounding numbers, which have fallen from 4.4 as a sophomore to 3.1 as a junior, despite moving to the shooting guard spot, which you think would add more opportunities.

Reeves Nelson
* Quite clearly, Nelson has been the Bruins’ most consistent offensive player through 25 games, with only four games with less than eight points. Nelson’s scoring is up pretty significantly, from 11.1 ppg to 13.7, and until Lee’s spurt, he was pretty much UCLA’s offensive rock. Obviously, he still can be, though Lee and Joshua Smith have become key scorers.

* What you’re noticing most is that as Nelson’s offensive dependency has dropped a bit, his defense has risen tremendously. Nelson had a recent stretch with six-straight 10-rebound games, averaging 11.2 boards per game during the run. Considering Nelson had just two double-digit rebound performances in his freshman season, his job on the glass this season has been crucial for UCLA.

* A bit under the radar, though, is Nelson’s passing numbers, which have sharply risen, both good and bad. Nelson’s assists have taken a massive jump, from just 11 – eleven. – assists as a freshman in 655 minutes, to 39 assists in 760 minutes. So too have Nelson’s turnovers, from 1.7 TOpg as a freshman to 2.3 this season. Nelson’s gaffes sometimes come in bunches, as he has 12 games with more than three turnovers.

* Nelson’s defensive stats have fallen, as well, from 20 steals to eight, and 20 blocks to 10. His defense has been pretty solid in the last few games, but for a while there, he just didn’t look like he was taking defensive risks, playing up in a guy’s face and forcing him into turnovers. That’s reflected in those numbers.

Honeycutt and Smith to follow…..

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  • Anonymous

    Great breakdown Jon!

  • Sleepy LaBeef

    Nelson’s increased turnovers are largely due to the fact that he’s gotten it into his head that he’s a point guard. He went coast-to-coast a couple of times early in the season and got away with it, so Howland has apparently decided to allow him to try to lead fast breaks any time he gets a defensive rebound. Big mistake. Opponents are on to him now, and they’re taking the ball away from him almost every time he tries to lead a break. Get the ball to your point guard, Reeves, and fill a lane.

  • shaynehb22

    Hey Jon, I really love the blog, but I gotta say your stat analysis is a bit myopic. I have played and watched basketball my entire life and the stats that you framed as being negative aren’t necessarily negative at all.

    Take Lee’s assist to turnover ratio for example. He played the 1 pretty extensively last year and averaged 3.1 assists and 2.6 turnovers. Now as a scoring guard, he’s down 1 assist and .6 turnovers a game because he’s not handling the ball as much and is not in a facilitators role this year. Assist to turnover ratio isn’t nearly as important for a 2 guard as it is for a 1. You used a pass first PG as your example of a good assist to turnover ratio — this is totally apples to oranges.

    Also, his rebounding is down because our front line’s rebounding is WAY up. He’s running the court by the time they get the ball, accentuating one of his strengths — finishing in transition.

    Now let’s take Nelson. Blocks and steals down you say? GOOD. They should be. That’s why his rebounds are up! Instead of gambling and getting out of position, he’s playing strong man to man D, turning and boxing out and snatching rebounds like crazy. His blocks and steals going down are a sign of growth, not laziness! If you don’t believe me, ask Ben Howland. He’ll tell you the same thing.

  • Very good post, thanks.

  • Sleepy LaBeef

    good post, shaynehb22. good points.

  • shaynehb22

    Thanks guys!