Our first profile details the top seed in our tournament, the NBA UCLA Bruins. Overall, 88 players from UCLA have played in the NBA, six of whom have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. They also feature arguably the two greatest players in college basketball history, who both went on to become an NBA Most Valuable Player and the best player on a championship team. With a mix of dynamic playmakers, long-range shooters, and unstoppable low-post forces, they field one of the best and deepest rosters in our field.

Russell Westbrook, the starting point guard, may be the most dynamic player in the current NBA. In addition to his triple-double exploits, Westbrook’s best attribute is his ability to get to the rim, and draw the defense with him. He’ll create many opportunities for his backcourt mate, Reggie Miller, who was one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. At 6’7”, Miller had the ideal height for a shooting guard, and both he and Westbrook will have to use their length and athleticism on both ends of the floor, instead of solely concentrating on offense. They’re backed up by Baron Davis, an erratic point guard whose talent was often overshadowed by his poor decision-making, and Gail Goodrich, a Hall-of-Famer who played both guard positions. Expect Goodrich to serve as the primary backup for both starting guards, and Davis to be used sparingly due to the depth on the roster.

Marques Johnson, one of the more underrated players in NBA lore, will start at small forward. Johnson was a tremendously efficient player in his prime, who also exceled on the glass for his position. While he was not a three-point threat, he was a master from the midrange and in, and his crafty game will allow him to find space despite the plethora of low-post options on this team. He’s backed up by Jamaal Wilkes, one of smoothest players of his time who exceled on the fast break, and defended his position stoutly. Kiki Vandeweghe, one of the best shooters and scorers of his era, will also see time on the wing.

The starting big men are the aforementioned college (and pro) legends, Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Both were natural centers who will have to adjust to playing off of one another in the starting lineup. Before his injuries, Walton led Portland to their only NBA championship, and then guided them to one of the great starts in NBA history the following year before his body broke down. He will man the high post on offense and utilize his world-class passing skills to direct the offense in half court sets. Abdul-Jabbar is one of the handful of greatest players in NBA history, and will serve as their primary offensive option throughout the tournament. Their minutes will be staggered to ensure that one big man is always on the court at all times, but when they play together, opponents will have no chance of scoring at the rim against them. Kevin Love will see plenty of minutes as the ideal stretch four who will create space for each big man to operate in the post. His phenomenal rebounding skills are also noteworthy, as he won’t let them slip on the glass when the Twin Towers are staggered. Sidney Wicks and Mark Eaton will play when needed as the fourth and fifth big men on the roster. Wicks was an immensely talented player who battled with teammates and played on losing teams in his time in Portland. However, his size, quickness, and passing ability were valuable assets, and he should be able to positively contribute when called upon. Eaton, the most prolific shotblocker in modern NBA history, will provide a massive defensive roadblock for opponents if Walton and Jabbar suffer from foul trouble.

The NBA UCLA Bruins have a complete and balanced roster with great high-end talent. In order to reach their peak, their point guards, particularly Westbrook, must run the offense through their big men and avoid dominating the ball. Their shooters will thrive with the looks that Jabbar, Walton, and Westbrook will create for them, and their defense should flourish, particularly on the interior, with three of the great rim protectors in the tournament.

5 thoughts on “NBA UCLA Bruins”

  1. Chris,
    What?!? No Ed O’Bannon? His brother, Charles? None of the players from that 1995 NCAA championship team?!?

    I mean, I gather the greatest players from college are judged not by their college careers alone, but by their professional exploits, and the teams are determined by the peak versions of the players. Right?

    This sort of hypothetical exercise will lean heavily towards the college teams that were successful up until the mid to late 1990s, because most players stayed in college three to four years until the NBA started allowing high schoolers to go pro.

    1. Hey there,

      The reason the O’Bannons aren’t included is because this solely looks at professional performance, and not college. Really, college affiliation is solely used as a way to group the teams, to see which school has produced the best professionals over history. Even if a player was one and done, they are eligible for inclusion, so a team like Kentucky will benefit from guys like Anthony Davis, as well as their players from past years. Thanks for the comment – hope this clarifies things.

  2. This reminds me of the time my dad (just as rabid a b-ball fan as I, naturally – I probably got it from him rather than the other way around, lol) … the time he said to me, “Pablo, the UCLA Bruins are far and away the top team in the country; but they’re not even the best team at their own school, the J-Vees, led by Lew Alcindor, are”. (The JVs dominated them!)

    This time around, one MIGHT justifiably be able to say: The UCLA bench is the best team in the country; but their starters are WAY better than them.

    Imo, the athlete subsequently known as KAJ was THE greatest college player ever; and only Bill Walton is in that discussion. With both of them on the court together – it’s “game over” vis-à-vis all other sets of bigs.

    For me, TEAM-work TRUMPS all else (which is why I have Magic ranked in “my” NBA-ABA-NBL GOAT Top 3). KAJ was a top quality passer and team-guy; Bill Walton was even better. (If it weren’t for those historically bad “wheels”; he might well have been GOAT.)

    Then we have the new and vastly improved, master-distributor Russell Westbrook, feeding the two of them AND lights-out Reggie. (I don’t see anyway at all that Russ would choose to disrupt THIS particular machine – just the opposite).

    Double ANY of those 4, and the rest of the team eats you alive. Don’t double any of them – same result only “crueler”.

    Marques (and Silk and Sidney) won’t have the least problem fitting in; (KNOWING how lucky they are to be on the same court with those guys); making for a harmonious and totally complete team on both ends of the court.

    This team goes undefeated, (probably for at least the next half century – it’d take that long for any other school to even have a shot at loading up this level of talent; while “You See L.A.” (we used to see this on the billboards around So. Cal.) would have to be “prohibited” from further adding to their juggernaut).
    BUT … this is being a Big Time “kill-joy”.

    A suggestion?
    “Retire” the UCLAns “permanently”; and let everybody else have a shot.

  3. I’d be remiss if I didn’t note:

    This, your latest write-up, is SOP-quality for YOU. I wouldn’t have analyzed it quite as well; but I CAN recognize the SKILL.

    “Boringly” as usual …

    I’d “suggest” being careful to never let your fine “product” or our compliments get to your head; but you sure don’t seem much of the arrogant type to need any such “warning”.

    P.S. Which reminds me of Red. That mofo was one arrogant sob; but, gee, he WAS head and shoulders above all other coaches and managers of his time; and probably, era-wise, will remain, comparatively speaking, #1 on into the foreseeable future.

    1. Haha – thanks as always Pablo. I really enjoy doing these, and I’ll continue to put my best effort into these posts.

      I agree that this team is a force of nature. Even though we know they’ll go far, I’m excited to construct all of the teams, and see if a case can be made for anyone to knock them off in an upset.

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