Lonzo Ball could be part of best ever draft class of point guards

UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball and Kentucky's Malik Monk (5) are two of the four point guards projected to be picked in the top five of the 2017 NBA draft

UCLA freshman Lonzo Ball and Kentucky’s Malik Monk (5) are two of the four point guards projected to be picked in the top five of the 2017 NBA draft

Should he turn pro after this season, could Lonzo Ball be part of the best draft class of point guards ever?

Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron asks this question after Ball outplayed not one, but two Kentucky point guards expected to join him in the 2017 NBA draft. Malik Monk is playing out of position at Kentucky because De’Aaron Fox is that good. But neither Ball, Fox nor Monk are expected to be among the top two point guards selected in the draft.

Ball will face off with the top point guard prospect in Pac-12 play when UCLA visits Seattle Feb 4. Washington freshman Markelle Fultz is projected to be top pick in the next NBA draft by Draft Express followed by N.C. State freshman point guard Dennis Smith at No. 2.

Ball is currently projected as the fourth pick and Monk the fifth pick. Kansas freshman Josh Jackson is the only player in the Draft Express top five who isn’t a point guard.

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UCLA basketball beefs up resume with major conference wins


It wasn’t just that No. 14 UCLA beat SEC and Big Ten teams over the weekend, it was how those wins were achieved that should inspire some more confidence.

For the first time in this young season, UCLA found itself in not one, but two tight games. It won both, claiming the tournament title at the Wooden Legacy in the process.

In Friday’s semifinal it staved off a pesky Nebraska team that nearly erased UCLA’s 15-point second-half lead. Then it withstood four lead changes and two tie scores in the final five minutes of Sunday’s win over Texas A&M in the tournament title game.

It’s not like they’re toppling the best teams in the country (Wait for it…UCLA plays at No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday!) but these are major conference opponents that pushed the Bruins to provide answers to some significant questions. Most notably, could freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf answer the bell in close games? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Continue reading

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UCLA basketball links: Bruins to open 2017-18 season in China

Freshman Lonzo Ball will make his regular season debut tonight for No. 16 UCLA

Freshman Lonzo Ball will make his regular season debut tonight for No. 16 UCLA

Next year at this time, the UCLA basketball team will be about 6,500 miles from Westwood. The Pac-12 announced Friday morning that UCLA will open the 2017-18 season in China against Georgia Tech.

“One of the reasons you come to UCLA is to play big games on the biggest stage,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “I’d say playing in the largest country in the world against a tremendous ACC program like Georgia Tech qualifies as a pretty big stage.”

In the 2016 edition of the Pac-12 China Game, Stanford and Harvard tip-off their seasons at 8 p.m. tonight in Shanghai. Next season will mark UCLA’s second trip to China in five years after playing a series of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai in August of 2012.

Touted freshmen Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf make their regular season debut tonight as the No. 16 Bruins open their season at Pauley Pavilion against Pacific at 6 p.m.

Season preview links:

  • Steve Alford is loosening the reins this season despite his hot seat
  • UCLA’s defensive concerns among five things to watch this season
  • UCLA’s five most important games of the season, including the program’s first-ever trip to Rupp Arena.
  • Men’s basketball full 2016-17 season schedule
  • A glance at UCLA’s competition in the Pac-12, including Oregon, Arizona
  • The No. 9 UCLA women are aiming for the Final Four
  • The five most important games for the UCLA women begin Monday at No. 2 Baylor
  • Women’s basketball full 2016-17 season schedule
  • A glance at the rest of the Pac-12 women’s basketball teams
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  • UCLA basketball links: Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf lead dunk-fest in debut

    If last night’s exhibition game is any indication, the UCLA basketball team is going to be fun to watch. How many victories the new-look, fast-paced Bruins will augment their entertaining style with is very much to be determined.

    But Lonzo Ball alone may be enough to begin to fill Pauley Pavilion again. The freshman point guard (14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists) was must-see in every facet – he had a spectacular block, a tip-dunk, and was on both ends of ally-oops, to name a few highlights. “I think you saw a little bit of how much Lonzo can impact the game in every single way,” senior Bryce Alford said.

    But it was classmate T.J. Leaf who led the dunk-fest with four authoritative throw downs. The 6-10 freshman was hardly overshadowed with 19 points and 12 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

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    UCLA basketball picked third in Pac-12 preseason media poll

    From left to right, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu and Lonzo Ball form the No. 5 recruiting class in the country, according to rivals.com.

    From left to right, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu and Lonzo Ball form the No. 5 recruiting class in the country, according to rivals.com.

    Only Oregon and Arizona were chosen to finish ahead of UCLA in the Pac-12 preseason media poll. Returning nearly all of the Elite Eight team from last season, Oregon received 23 of the first-place votes and Arizona the remaining four, but UCLA finished third by a wide margin.

    In the poll released Friday at Pac-12 Media Day, 50 votes separated the Bruins from Cal, which finished 10 votes ahead of fifth-place Colorado. Featuring perhaps the best freshman in the country in Markelle Fultz, Washington finished sixth, followed by USC and Utah.

    UCLA can argue it may have the best freshman in the country in Lonzo Ball. Only Arizona landed a more highly ranked group of freshman in the conference than UCLA’s top-five recruiting class including forward T.J. Leaf and center Ike Anigbogu.

    Seeing as the Bruins graduated just one player from the team that finished only ahead of Arizona State and Washington State last season, UCLA was richly rewarded by the media for their recruiting haul.

    2016-17 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll
    1. Oregon (23)
    2. Arizona (4)
    3. UCLA Continue reading

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