One of the most frustrating subplots of watching UCLA so far is to see how Kyle Anderson has been mishandled by Ben Howland. A top-5 recruit who is forced to switch between the perimeter and the post instead of his natural position as a point guard.
The positive is that the 6-9 Anderson is the best rebounder UCLA has. He’s leading the team with 7.9 per game and unlike David and Travis Wear, he’s shown a willingness to crash the boards on both sides. He’s also a great defender (a team-high 1.7 steals) and perhaps the Bruins’ best all-around player.
The negatives? Anderson’s being exposed as not a great shooter (35.8% from the field) and he looks uncomfortable without the ball in his hands.It’s sparked frustration from his father and as I watch him, it’s a shame seeing a guy who could start for any program in the country not being used properly.
Here’s some ideas I have, knowing full well Ben Howland is perhaps too stubborn to try it. For defensive purposes, let’s assume UCLA remains in that despised 2-3 zone.
Lineup 1: Anderson, Norman Powell, Jordan Adams, Shabazz Muhammad, Travis Wear. This will work well against smaller teams as Anderson can drive and dish to Powell, Adams or Muhammad – all of whom range from good to great shooters. It also allows Anderson to create an take his man off the dribble.
It also allows Larry Drew II to rest since he’s playing a team-high 34.7 minutes per game. But since you don’t want to leave out the Pac-12’s current assist leader altogether, here’s another idea.
Lineup 2: Anderson and Drew share the backcourt with Muhammad or Adams at the wing and the Wear Twins in the middle. Since the Wear twins are allergic to posting up and Drew is not a great shooter, Howland should give Anderson the ball and run pick-and-rolls to allow him to either pass to the Wears for their comfortable mid-range shots or set them up when they roll for easier layups.
Taking the ball out of Drew’s hands seems like an unfair punishment but the ball should be shared between him and Anderson. Right now Anderson’s averaging 3.3 assists and I believe he can average two more a game just by trusting him more to run the offense.
That last part is key. Howland, who’s sour reputation with his players has been well documented needs to start trusting his young freshman. Drew is going to burn out at some point and Anderson has proven his value as a leader/all-around talent. Why not reward him instead of make him unhappy?
One more point to consider. Anderson’s also playing out of position because the Bruins have very little frontcourt depth. I can understand that but at the same time, he shouldn’t be punished for that. I’ve been left wondering how good Anderson can really be if Howland gave him more responsibility instead of letting him roam around.
It’s a credit to his talent, IQ and work ethic that Anderson’s tried to make the most of his situation. But if UCLA is to save their season when Pac-12 play starts, they need to let him do more of what they recruited him to do.