I've been holding off since the class is fairly incomplete at this stage.
But heading into the home stretch leading up to the early signing period in November, it seemed like a good time to do it now, since the list of UCLA's hard targets has been narrowed down considerably.
I think it's probably best to break down UCLA's primary targets into individual stories.
Lamb, the 6-4 senior shooting guard from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, is the #60-ranked prospect in Scout.com's national 2010 rankings, but I believe he's quite a bit better than that ranking would indicate. Lamb, UCLA's only committed player so far in the 2010 class, is good to very good in just about every aspect that you look for in a prospect.
In terms of his physical attributes, Lamb is an above-average athlete, with good length and a solid frame. He's already pretty well put together and he should have no trouble adding strength when he gets in a college weight program. He has good quickness and agility for his size, with excellent body control and balance. Those two attributes – body control and balance – are often overlooked by many analysts in our business and I believe that's one reason some folks have missed on their evaluations of Lamb. His ability to dribble hard at a defender, stop on a dime and elevate for a jumper is something that separates him from other players at his position.
Lamb's offensive skills are very solid across the board. He's a good, but not great, shooter to three-point range. Like most high school kids his mechanics are not yet perfect and when he misses it's usually because he's fading, falling away or rushing his shot. But when he's in rhythm and on balance, he's a good shooter. However, Lamb is not just a catch-and-shoot guy. As I mentioned, he can create his own shot off the dribble and he can do it with range. His mid-range game is adequate at this time and that's something that should improve with time. When he gets to the rim, Lamb has the size and strength to finish against contact. He's a good ball-handler for a two-guard and I don't think it's out of the question that he might play some point guard down the road. His vision, feel and passing skills are all on a level where you could see him spending some time at the one if needed.
While Lamb projects to being a very good offensive player at the college level, it's his potential as a defensive player that makes him a better prospect than some might believe him to be. As I said, he's got good physical attributes – moves well laterally, long arms, strength, etc. But defense is mostly about attitude and Lamb has already shown the desire, and ability, to be a good defender. That's not unheard of at the high school level, but you certainly don't see it every day. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Coach Howland was ultimately sold on Lamb after Tyler played exceptional defense in a tournament late in July a little over a year ago. Lamb was going against current UNLV freshman Anthony Marshall (a player UCLA also strongly considered) and it was a great battle. Lamb didn't shut down Marshall completely, but he did a very good job overall. And it wasn't just that one game – Lamb was very good defensively the entire week and by the end of the tournament Coach Howland had decided to offer Lamb a scholarship.
While Lamb isn't exceptional in any one area, he's good at just about everything and he can make every play you need someone to make on a basketball court. He can knock down a jumper, get an assist, grab a rebound, create off the dribble, block a shot, defend multiple positions…he's got a chance to be a complete player at the next level. His approach to the game is very good as well. He plays hard, he's competitive and he has a good feel for the game. Like most high school players, he obviously has room for improvement in most areas of the game. But given his physical attributes, his approach to the game and his track record of development to date, he projects as a guy that has a chance to be an all-conference player someday.
In terms of how he fits in with UCLA, Lamb is the right guy at the right time. He's a good kid and fits the mold for the kind of players that UCLA typically gets out of Southern California. The Bruins obviously need guards and that need will be even more pronounced should Malcolm Lee leave the program before his four years are up. Lamb should be particularly valuable because of his versatility. He's not a point guard, but he might play some one eventually. However, at the defensive end he's got a chance to guard three positions. He'll definitely be at least a two-position defender at shooting guard and small forward. And it's quite possible he'll be able to defend some point guards as well. I think Lamb has a chance to be the next guy to take on that role of defensive stopper in the backcourt after Arron Afflalo, Russell Westbrook, and (hopefully) Malcolm Lee. However, there's no guarantee that he will reach that level. Lamb still has a long way to go in terms of his development, having not even started his senior season in high school. Assuming continued development, though, he should be an impact player at UCLA fairly early in his career.