UCLA's Larry Drew Deserves Mention Among Nation's Top Point Guards

By Evan Barnes
Troy Taormina – USA TODAY Sports Images

It’s no secret that Larry Drew II has played fairly well for UCLA in his return to Los Angeles. He may not be scoring as frequently as other top guards in the Pac-12, but he leads the conference in assists by a wide margin. His 8.4 average is almost three more than the nearest person, Arizona State‘s brilliant freshman Jahii Carson, and it’s also third in the nation.

Tuesday night might have been Drew’s best game as a Bruin, at least in head coach Ben Howland‘s mind.. Besides his nine assists (the fifth time in the last six games he’s had nine or more), he had a season-high 14 points to go with two steals.

So it begs the question: is Larry Drew one of the best point guards in college basketball this season? That might shock North Carolina or ACC fans who called him “Turnover Jesus” but follow me for one bit.

A point guard’s job has traditionally been to set his teammates up, control the tempo and not make mistakes. There’s always been point guards that can score, as well, but the recent trend of expecting guards to score and create for others has obscured great guards who distribute as well as anybody.

Drew’s replacement at Carolina, Kendall Marshall, was a traditional point guard in every sense. as he averaged more assists per game (9.8) than points (8.1) than last season. Greatness doesn’t always depend on how often you score, but rather how efficient you can be.

In the games I’ve watched, I’ve seen Drew work like a game manager in football. He can distribute to Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams on the perimeter or run the pick and roll with David and Travis Wear. He doesn’t make mistakes, either, as his 5.1 assist to turnover ratio shows.

In essence, he’s doing his job and I stopped demanding that he score more because on this team he doesn’t need to. Would I like for him to be able to hit an open shot or get to the basket more often? Sure. But would I sacrifice any of the eight passes that lead to at least 16-20 points per game? Not at all.

Some of why Drew isn’t getting more respect is because of the sour reputation he earned from leaving UNC so abruptly. I understand some of the frustration and I can only respond that Drew wasn’t a good fit in Chapel Hill from the start. As the LA Times reported this week, Drew would’ve probably committed to UCLA had Howland not forced him to rush his decision.

As rough as he played in the ACC, I’d rather applaud Drew for rejuvenating his career and giving UCLA their best point guard since Darren Collison graduated. I’m not saying he’s better than Michigan’s Trey Burke or Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams. I’m also not excusing Drew’s defensive troubles or his poor shooting.

But if we’re talking about the nation’s top floor generals, there’s more than enough evidence to show that Drew’s in the conversation.

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