Kyle Nelson Malcolm Lee
saw few minutes last season but was thrust into a featured role this year regardless, following the departures of Darren Collison
and Jrue Holiday
. While Lee has always had a tremendous amount of potential, and certainly still does, this season has largely been a mixed bag. For one, Lee is now UCLAs starting point guard, as Jerime Anderson
s incredibly disappointing play forced Ben Howland to make Lee his primary ball-handler. As the lead facilitator in Ben Howlands offense, Lee has shown much promise and an impressive learning curve, even if it has been an extremely rough season in Westwood to say the least.
From a purely physical perspective, Lee fits the profile of a modern day NBA combo guard. He has good size at 65 and length, but his frame, though developing, is still slight and he must continue to work on adding muscle and bulk. Lee has a spectacular first step and superior quicknesstwo things that bode extremely well for his NBA future. His athleticism is on full display in the open court in particular, even if continuing to get stronger and working on fundamentals is essential.
Offensively, Lee is still very much a mixed bag. He looks more comfortable with his jump shot, but his shot selection leaves much to be desired. Over 36% of his shots are from beyond the arc and he shoots just 26.7%, which is occasionally a result of receiving the ball late in the shot clock, but largely an indictment of shooting ability.
His form needs serious work, as he sports a quick, albeit truncated release. Though he gets good arc on his shot, he rarely holds his follow through and therefore, comes up short on a lot of his shots. He also wastes motion in his lower body and kicks his legs in rhythm. Working on his upper body strength would help matters, as well, as oftentimes he seems to push the ball in order to compensate. His dismal perimeter shooting percentages are largely indicative of his inconsistent shooting mechanics, which he must improve before seeing minutes at the next level.
Elsewhere on the offensive end, Lees outstanding first step allows him to beat his man off of the dribble, but his lack of strength and just average touch around the basket inhibits his effectiveness as a slasher. Furthermore, improving his handle certainly would help, as well, and while he is a good straight-line dribbler, he struggles with more complex movements.
Lee does not show a tremendous amount of variation in his mid-range game at the present moment, but he has been effective pulling up on occasions this season and should only continue to improve with better ball handling and increased confidence. Scouts should look for him to improve in this area, however, as he has struggled to create his shot at times this season, often looking like a fish out of water in Ben Howlands conservative and methodical offense.
As a point guard, Lee is still learning, but has shown some positive improvements throughout the season. He shows good vision, particularly in transition, but his half court instincts look undeveloped. His decision-making is not refined either, and oftentimes, he picks up his dribble without knowing what to do next. Sometimes he struggles between roles as a scorer and as a distributor, though his leadership abilities should only improve with time.
In the half court, Lee looks far from comfortable and is very turnover prone, though he shows a tremendous amount of potential in drive-and-kick situations. Improving his handle would certainly help him here, in addition to working on making quick and crisp passes. Lee is still young and has the support of his team and coaching staff, which are positive indicators of future improvement.
Like Russell Westbrook
before him, his performance as a point guard in the collegiate ranks has left much to be desired, but there is no doubt that the potential is there and it is still worth noting the unfortunate circumstances that thrust him into the starting point guard position. Though NBA scouts rightly project him as a combo-guard at the next level, with continued work, it seems as though he can develop into an effective distributor at this level.
As we have mentioned before, Lee is a spectacular defender and has the chance to develop into a lockdown player at the next level. His length and lateral quickness help him in man-to-man situations, where he is both relentless and intense. While he gambles quite a bit and his team defense is an open book considering UCLAs inability to execute Ben Howlands defense, Lee is an outstanding perimeter defender who has the potential to guard multiple positions at the next level, especially as he gets stronger and adds bulk to his slight frame. Malcolm Lee
possibly has more responsibility than any sophomore in the NCAA, as hes expected to be UCLAs best scorer, facilitator, and defender on any given night. The unfortunate thing is that hes being forced to do so in a system that probably couldnt be any less-suited for his strengths.
Though he has had his fair share of trouble adjusting, his performance this season has been very promising at times, and suggests that in a more complimentary role, at UCLA next season or in the NBA, he should be a far more efficient and effective basketball player.
Returning to school for another season would normally benefit Lee tremendously, as he could improve his handle, decision-making instincts, and shooting form, while filling out his frame. Lee has a tough decision to make this summer, though, as there are persistent rumors that his patience has run thin and hes strongly considering entering the draft. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.