Analysis: Backcourt Depth for 2014-2015

If UCLA doesn't make any additions to its roster for the 2014-2015 season, depth and fatigue in the backcourt could be a big factor in UCLA's 2014-2015 season...

BRO members are really hashing it out on the BRO Premium Hoops Message Board about the roster for next season and how it will be utilized.

Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford.
The loss of Jordan Adams late to the NBA Draft is a considerable blow for the 2014-2015 season, clearly. Whether the blame belongs to Adams for making such a late decision and not giving the staff time to recruit accordingly, or the coaching staff for not being prepared anyway (even after Zach LaVine chose to jump to the NBA), or both, or neither, Adams' departure dramatically changes the complexion of the team. We're not even talking about losing Adams' 17 points per game, but just losing another perimeter player who can contribute.

It leaves UCLA down to four scholarship perimeter players: Bryce Alford, Norman Powell, Isaac Hamilton and Noah Allen. That's simply not even enough bodies to get through a full season of comfortably filling out playing time at the point guard, shooting guard and small forward spots. But you would have to believe that Allen won't likely play any significant minutes. So, the vast majority of the backcourt minutes (and we consider the small forward spot part of the backcourt) will have to be taken up by Alford, Powell and Hamilton.

But, very simply, each can't play 40 minutes per game.

Many discussions are ensuing on the BRO message board about who will start and, even moreso, who will play point guard, but those are secondary concerns compared to depth. Without another backcourt player on the roster for next season, the minutes are going to be grueling for Alford, Hamilton and Powell. It won't matter at all who starts, because all three of them could be playing 35+ minutes per game.

Whether Hamilton starts or not, he will, first, need some rest at the two/three, and then, secondly, have to play some point guard.

The staff will have to use Jonah Bolden at the small forward spot. First, it's then completely essential that Bolden does, indeed, qualify academically to enroll next season (which we've heard looks likely). Bolden is a 6-8ish, 200-pound forward who would be best suited to play the four in college, but has some quickness, moreso than say Kyle Anderson, and could possibly best defend the three spot among any other players on UCLA's roster. Kevon Looney, the 6-9 post, isn't as laterally quick as Bolden and is even more of a post, but he, too, has some athleticism, superior to, say, the Wear twins. Both will more than likely get some minutes at the three (and it probably works for them well since we're sure both consider themselves threes, as most power forwards do).

If the staff can even get just 15 minutes from Bolden/Looney at the three, it will still force Alford, Powell and Hamilton to play 35 minutes per game, each. Perhaps if they can get 5-8 minutes per game out of Allen, who hopefully, as a sophomore, will be able to hold up that responsibility, that could possibly reduce each of their minutes to 33 per game, which is far more manageable for a season.

Jonah Bolden.
What's the most significant impact of playing Bolden/Looney at the three? Offensively, it probably offers some advantages. Both Bolden and Looney are going to be very tough match-ups for the standard 6-5 college small forward. The issue will be on the defensive end, with Bolden/Looney being on the court along with two other post players probably forcing UCLA to play as much zone as it did last season, if not more (We can call it the Kyle Anderson Zone). Zone makes sense; it will also keep the three backcourt players from getting fatigued. It will be needed, also, because of Alford's limitations in man-to-man D and being on the court for 33-35 minutes. Hamilton and Allen, too, aren't great man-to-man defenders. Also, freshmen generally aren't great defenders, and with so many on the court at one time, specifically playing defense out-of-position, zone makes even more sense.

Again, for one more year (and this goes back longer than just last season), it appears that a lack of overall team athleticism will hamstring UCLA's defensive capabilities, and force it into playing more zone that it probably would want to ideally.

Best Case Scenario: Bolden qualifies academically and enrolls, and besides bringing a great offensive game to the floor, shows he has the capability of guarding a three. Even if Hamilton starts, if Bolden can play 20+ minutes at the small forward spot, and enable UCLA to use some man defense during that time, that would be a significant development, and really relieve the potential fatigue issue in UCLA's backcourt.

This potential situation could all be relieved, at least to some degree, if this spring UCLA gets a backcourt player who is either from the 2014 class and comes in as a freshman or a transfer with immediately eligibility. Right now, the way the roster stands, fatigue (or potential injury) in the backcourt looms as probably the #1 limiting factor next season, even moreso than who starts or plays point guard.


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