Sunday, November 25, 2012

UCLA's Tyler Lamb to Transfer: Thanks, Shabazz

Baxter Holmes of the Los Angeles Times reported earlier today that UCLA junior guard Tyler Lamb will transfer to parts unknown.

Lamb's exit statement said all the right things, thanking his teammates and coaches for what he called an "unparalleled" opportunity. In the next sentence, though, Lamb sounds the alarm that should clearly explain his true motivation.

More parsing after the jump.

“I believe that it is in my best interest to find a new destination where I can continue to grow, both as a person and as a basketball player." With those words, Tyler Lamb sings the song of every college basketball player who's been considered, to borrow phrasing from Men In Black II, "old and busted" compared to a group of McDonald's All-Americans' "new hotness."

Run the statement through the public relations BS/real-talk translator, and it reads thusly: "I'm never seeing more than 10 minutes again, so I'm outta here. Thanks for recruiting over the top of me, Coach."

The writing for this move should have been on the wall from the moment the NCAA decided to grant Shabazz Muhammad's eligibility. With Kyle Anderson already eligible, Jordan Adams playing like an All-Pac-12 candidate and Norman Powell averaging 28 MPG, Lamb was already the fourth option on the wing once he fully recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery. Adding Muhammad to the lineup simply seems like piling on.

By the time a player reaches his junior (or God forbid, his senior) season, his NBA hourglass is running low on sand. On DraftExpress's top 100 list, college upperclassmen fill 44 of the spots. A respectable percentage but, as we all know, there are only 60 players getting drafted in any particular year. 20 of the top 60 (33%) are juniors and seniors, 14 of the top 50 (28%) and a whopping zero of the top 10 (I shouldn't have to do this math).

Lamb was a top-40 recruit when he entered UCLA, within the range of freshmen who would rate the attention of NBA scouts. Last season, he was respectable on a mediocre team, one of the better on-ball defenders in America. His pro potential, however, is on life support, and staying at UCLA would pull the plug altogether.

He'll get the opportunity to be a star at some smaller program, but in the meantime, whither UCLA? Muhammad surprised the hell out of me when he decided to keep pursuing this college thing at all, and it's going to take something catastrophic for him to be back in Westwood next season. Adams could ponder a jump if he remains a primary offensive option.

Coach Ben Howland needs this to be a hot season, or he could find himself seeking other employment. A move of that nature would leave Anderson, Powell and Tony Parker with decisions to make about their futures, and those decisions could easily involve transfers. The entire hyped class bailing would leave UCLA right back where it was B.S. (Before Shabazz): sporting a roster headlined by the Wear twins and Joshua "Round Mound of Tinseltown" Smith.

At that point, Tyler Lamb could greatly enjoy the last laugh.

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