Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Next Stop For Some Bruins, the NBA?

By Bruin Basketball Report

With the end of a remarkable UCLA basketball season culminating with a Final Four championship game, several Bruin basketball players have important decisions to make in the upcoming months which will acutely impact their basketball careers.

While graduating seniors Cedric Bozeman, Ryan Hollins, Michael Fey, and Janou Rubin are contemplating what may be in store for them next in their careers, sophomores Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo have demonstrated the level of talent and upside to attract the attention of NBA scouts this year.

According to some sources, both Bozeman and Hollins may have a chance to make an NBA roster next season as well.

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland has vowed to do everything in his power to help Bozeman with the next step in his basketball career.

Although Bozeman has said he will play professionally, most likely overseas, one person who says it’s too early to rule out Bozeman as an NBA player is Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson.

Olson heavily recruited Bozeman out of Mater Dei high school. "I do think he does have a future because the only question I've ever heard is whether he can shoot the ball," Olson said. "Well, he's proved this year he can shoot it. He's long, he plays hard, and he’s a great kid.”

"We need more people like that, frankly, in the NBA. He'd be a good team guy. He wouldn't be belly-aching about 'play me or trade me here,' only making a couple a million or so a year. I think he'd be happy to be in that position."

From an individual standpoint, seven-footer Ryan Hollins perhaps benefited the most from the Bruin’s NCAA Tournament run. The senior from Pasadena averaged 11.5 points on 80% field shooting and 6.5 rebounds per game during the tourney

As a result, mock drafts have Hollins being drafted in the second round of the NBA, impressive considering he was not on anyone’s radar screen at the beginning of the year.

Hollins has tremendous length and athleticism but still lacks strength to be an effective NBA post man where he will have trouble holding position in the lane against bigger opponents. With his size and athleticism he would be considered a project in the NBA but with a great upside.

For Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar, the decision whether to forego remaining collegiate eligibility will obviously be more difficult.

As a result of the NBA’s new draft rule which includes a 19-year-old eligibility age limit, this year's NBA draft will not be as deep since none of the top high school players will be eligible for the NBA draft this year prompting some collegiate players, especially those on the fence, to evaluate their opportunities more closely.

Underclassmen face an April 29 deadline to submit their names for the NBA draft. Those who do not hire agents can remove their names from the draft by June 18 and return to play in college. The NBA draft will take place on June 28.

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland said he will attempt to call every general manager in the NBA during this week to gauge interest in his starting guards.

"If the feeling is they are top-20 picks, that is something they would have to consider," Howland said. "We're always going to do what's in the best interest of our players,"

"They're going to make the decision. Jordan and Arron, and their families, will make a decision. Howland believed, “if they did return next year, they would be preseason All-Americans, without question.”

One general manager speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "Jordan Farmar is a bubble guy. He might go in the first round, and he might not. Arron Afflalo is a second-round pick.

Both sophomore players would be wise stay in school and continue to refine their games.

Farmar, although an exceptional floor leader, needs to improve on his outside shooting (41%) and cut down on his turnovers (1.4/1 assist/turnover ratio).

Afflalo, whose suffocating on ball defense alone is enough to earn him an NBA roster spot, needs to refine his offensive skills by learning how to get to the basket more consistently, and getting more patient and allow the game to come to him rather than forcing the issue at times.

One option both sophomores will be considering is whether to attend the NBA’s pre-draft tryouts in Orlando Florida (previously held in Chicago) from June 6-10.

At the tryouts they’ll each be given an evaluation of their basketball talent and chances of making it on an NBA roster.

However, the evaluation process carries its own risks. If a player has a glaring deficiency, the scouts will catch it at the tryouts, and they may not forget, leaving a lasting impression - sometimes a bad one.

According to Arizona associate head coach Jim Rosborough, any player leaving early could risk his NBA future if he does not play well in the pre-draft process.

Wildcat’s point guard Jason Gardner tested the 2001 draft as a sophomore and returned to school for two more years before he went undrafted in 2003.

"Every weakness he had was exposed, and those (NBA) guys didn't forget about it," Rosborough said. "That may have hurt him more in terms of his pro career than anything.”

The stakes are immense when one views the salary structure for NBA rookies.

Players not picked in the first round of the NBA draft are not assured of receiving guaranteed contracts, although some do. Thus a first round selection by a team is usually an assurance sought by an underclassman declaring early for the draft.

Only the first 18 selections of the first round are guaranteed contracts over $1,000,000 a year, the rest of the first round picks get a sliding scale down to $717,000 a year. While second round picks and un-drafted signees can make as low as $398,762 a year, the league minimum.

Trevor Ariza is an example of a college ball player who may have done better financially if he had stayed in school rather than declaring early for the NBA draft after his freshman year.

Ariza was drafted in the second round with the 43rd overall pick of the draft. He signed a two-year contract in 2004 which paid him $641,748 this year.

Many believe, including Coach Ben Howland, Ariza would have been a lottery pick if he had stayed one or two additional seasons at UCLA to refine his skills.

First round lottery picks are guaranteed at least a two year contact worth $1,157.000 annum with team options for two additional years.

With the April 29 deadline date to declare for the draft looming, a decision by both Afflalo and Farmar whether to enter the draft is forthcoming.



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