UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt has the ball stripped by Washington State's… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Malcolm Lee should stay, and Tyler Honeycutt should go.
That was the opinion of one NBA team executive asked to assess whether the two UCLA players generating the most draft buzz should return for another year of college.
Honeycutt should declare for what the executive called "probably the worst draft in 10 years" because he envisioned the sophomore as a lottery pick who would be selected between Nos. 10 and 17. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to discuss college players publicly.
One mock draft has Honeycutt projected to be taken with the eighth pick overall, and another with the 18th pick. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 14.6 points and 7.6 rebounds.
"Should Tyler Honeycutt be mid-to-late lottery?" the executive asked. "In a normal year, absolutely not. But in this draft, it's awful. You start wondering, what wing players go ahead of him?"
Asked if it would be difficult for him to pass up the NBA if he was projected as a lottery pick, Honeycutt said, "That's something I'd have to sit down with my family and talk about. … It just depends on the type of year I have and how my mind-set is after this year.
The executive said Lee, a junior guard, should return for his senior season because he "is not a first-round pick." One mock draft projects Lee to go in the middle of the second round and another does not have him being taken in either round.
Lee, who is averaging 12.8 points, said he has not pondered anything beyond helping the Bruins reach the NCAA tournament.
UCLA travels to the Galen Center on Sunday night to face USC, and Bruins Coach Ben Howland said he had forgotten the extent of the Trojans' recent dominance in the series.
That's his story, anyway.
"I didn't even know it was three games," Howland said this week of his team's losing streak against the Trojans, which goes back to a Pacific 10 Conference tournament semifinal in 2009.
Honeycutt, a Sylmar native, said he had experienced some good-natured razzing about the Bruins' longest drought in the rivalry since USC won four consecutive games from 2002-04 — Steve Lavin's final season as UCLA coach and Howland's first.
"It's nothing serious… joking around," Honeycutt said. "But it still kind of hurts because people are like, 'You're not going to lose both of these games to SC this year, are you?'"
Not everyone feels extra pressure. Bruins sophomore forward Reeves Nelson called any added emphasis placed on the rivalry "a media thing and maybe an old-timer thing."
"I just want to beat every team we play," Nelson said, "regardless if they're from Oregon or New York or Iowa or wherever."
By tipoff Sunday evening, UCLA will have had nine days between games to work on its shortcomings.
Given the list of issues trotted out by Howland — transition defense, setting screens, blocking out, eliminating unforced turnovers, playing with a sustained sense of urgency and getting more rebounds from the guards — the Bruins might have been able to use considerably more time.
Some of the problems are fundamentals players didn't learn until they arrived at UCLA.
"I never boxed out in high school," Honeycutt said. "I was always a more athletic guy.… But at the next level and the better players you play [in college], guys are just as big and athletic, so it can cost you."