The last time Ben Howland brought in a class like this, let's just say, the Bruins didn't live up to expectations. Jrue Holiday and Malcolm Lee were the prized guards, Drew Gordon and J'Mison Morgan were going to be the frontcourt dominators. Holiday left school after just one season, Lee followed for the NBA after his junior year. Gordon and Morgan both ended their careers elsewhere.
The former No. 1 recruiting class back in 2008 couldn't do it, should the nation's top class of 2012 class, which features Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker, be expected to bring this program back to the glory days at UCLA?
Who's going to play point guard to get Muhammad the ball? Anderson is a point-forward and play some point, but he isn't crafty enough to consistently run the offense. Other than Tyler Lamb, who is a 2-guard by trade, and the offensively-challenged freshman Norman Powell, no one on the roster averaged more than an assist per game. Should Muhammad be asked to run the team and account for most of its scoring? While he is certainly talented enough, it could lead to some Austin Rivers-like play- forced shots, forced passes, stagnant offensive sets.
Will junior forward Josh Smith, a super-talented big man, finally put it together? We've been waiting years for Smith to lose his bulk that has hampered his conditioning, foul troubles and overall production, but it hasn't happened yet. The addition of a similar player in Tony Parker should push Smith to breaking point- either he will have his best season by pushing himself or he will continue to waste his tremendous talent and therefore can probably never be counted on. Parker could even be inserted into the starting lineup and be replaced on the floor by Smith as a reserve, giving UCLA two dominant low-post big men, but two bigs who will likely be gasping for air and winded in the second-half.
Where do the Wear brothers fit in? In their first season since transferring from North Carolina, Ben Howland didn't know what to do with 6'9" and 6'10" forwards Davis and Travis Wear. Playing them alongside Josh Smith in the middle forced them to play out of position predominantly on the wing, instead of an inside-outside stretch-the-floor-type forward that would best utilize their talents. Now, Howland adds in three talented players all in the frontcourt rotation, so where does that leave the Wears?
Howland must address each of these questions this offseason heading into the fall. He cannot put his best five players on the floor. While it seems like great strategy, Howland has tried to do that in the past, including last season, when the Bruins finished with just 11 conference wins, sixth in the Pac-12 and no postseason tournament. There is very little evidence that Howland can manage the current talent that he has on his roster so this season there should be some interesting play by UCLA.