I talked to DraftExpress.com‘s Jonathan Givony this afternoon, mostly for a story on UCLA basketball’s diminished expectations that runs in Thursday’s paper (online here). Here’s some interview bits that didn’t fully make it into that piece, with the overall gist being this: while the freshmen haven’t struggled to varying degress to adjust to the college level, they haven’t overly helped or hurt their draft stock.
Givony, by the way, watched UCLA’s two games in Brooklyn as well as against San Diego State.
Did Kentucky’s title run last year set up unreasonable expectations for UCLA?
“A little bit. I think Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, for them to play together and win together, just being the key guys, that just really doesn’t ever happen. I don’t know who is disappointed or why. It’s always like this, honestly. If you turn the clock back like a year ago, people were saying Austin Rivers stinks, he can’t make a shot. All these guys, they grow up slow.”
How much can UCLA’s struggles be attributed to Ben Howland trying to adopt offensive and defensive schemes he doesn’t normally espouse?
“I think it’s a personnel thing also. You have two guys who are, with Muhammad and Anderson, paying 25-plus minutes who are freshmen, just adapting to the college level. And then Larry Drew having to sit out all that time, he’s kind of been out of basketball for a long time. I think it’s been almost two years since he played. …
“It’s a personnel issue. It’s an experience issue. They need time. If they had Shabazz at the very beginning, It would have been easier. It think hey have plenty of time still.”
What are your impressions of Shabazz Muhammad so far?
“I think he’s been OK. Maybe his finishing around the basket needs a little bit of work. I agree his conditioning isn’t where it needs to be right now. He’s rebounding, he’s getting to the line, he’s scoring. I don’t know what standard people are holding him to. He’s been pretty good. …
“Usually guys that are way too high on my board, people will let me know about it in a friendly way. I haven’t got a peep about it. People know that he’s just five games into his career. It’s not like they started to evaluate him three weeks ago. They’ve been evaluating him for a while.”
Is there any chance at all that Kyle Anderson is a one-and-done?
“I didn’t think he was going to be one-and-done anyway. I think there were some pretty major question marks about how his game will transition from the high school level to the college level, let alone the NBA level. I’m not surprised or disappointed in the way he’s playing. He’s going to have to adjust. He’s a smart, skilled player. … If people around him are telling him, you’re a point guard, you need to transfer, then I’d probably be concerned.”
Do you think he’s caught in between positions? He can’t really defend point guards at this point and doesn’t seem to have the offensive skills to play forward.
“I think it’s premature to say that. This guy was one of the best high school players in the last decade. It’s been a rough start for him. I do think that a guy who is 6-foot-9 with his length and his feel for the game, I think there could be a spot for him if he improves his outside shot and he’s able to learn how to defend his position at the NBA level, which is the three. In that case, I think there could be a spot for him. It’s not going to come for him as quickly as people thought.
“He’s rebounding incredibly well. He’s passing incredibly well. He gets steals. He just can’t make a shot right now. That’s going to come in time. We’re eight games into the season. It’s still early at this time.”