The UCLA Bruins have been locked into the tube of a beautiful wave over the course of 10 consecutive games, winning all of them.
Now five games into an 18-game conference season, the Bruins are 5-0 and performing behind the potent contributions of several key players.
In these slides we will turn the players into stock pieces, evaluating the relative value of their contributions to date with an eye toward what to expect in the future, which is the always perilous goal of the intrepid trader of stocks.
Phenom Baller's price is high and steady, though it shuddered slightly over last weekend like a seismograph in Los Angeles when an almost invisible tremor registers for those with special training. Shabazz Muhammad struggled on his first road swing in the Pac-12, which makes a fan a little nervous at the outset of a long odyssey.
But the first weekend on the road was also the one trip where two games were not played in the same state, moving between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boulder, Colorado. Muhammad shot poorly, going 9-29 for 20 points in 58 minutes over both games. He also managed only seven rebounds, which feels low for a big guard with such an active style who spends a lot of time near the rim.
Back at home against Oregon State he led the team with 21 points and three of five shooting from three-point range. He pulled down six rebounds and played hard for 32 minutes.
The physical effort and tenacity are always there, even if the all around polish on his game is still missing. Muhammad can be counted on to perform even in a down market
Adams stock has had minor downward fluctuations early in the conference season. His defense dips it some, but his effort to be better keeps it high as a promising performer.
Adams played 65 minutes last weekend at Utah and Colorado. He shot 11-24 from the floor and scored 30 points. He was four of six from the free-throw line and had three assists over two games.
Adams is not much on the glass at either end because he is a true wing player and does not spend much time with the extra tall trees inside. He does not assist as well as one might like to see, but he has a soft touch on the dish and can do it when he wants to. His stock will soar if he begins setting up teammates for points.
Back at home against Oregon State on Thursday, Adams played like an invisible man against a weak opponent, which is not a great tendency if it becomes a habit. Adams had two points on six shots with zero three-point attempts in 26 minutes, which is a low number of minutes for him.
Coach Howland may have been giving him rest, but that is hard to imagine after a five day layoff. If Adams comes out flat for these basement conference teams, it will reflect poorly on his overall stock.
But Adams has a shot and offensive arsenal you can invest in over the long term, and a lancer's instinct for the kill shot. Adams sunk late free throws against Colorado to seal the game.
Kyle Anderson's stock began to rise at the outset of what is now a 10 game winning streak, and is now holding at a strong price with potential for more. But there are disconcerting signs with his defense—especially in the open-floor when he stops moving his feet and reaches—that are holding the price down some.
It may very well be that Anderson will need this season and an off-season to develop some strength and additional quickness to really hang at this level. It will be very compelling for fans of the team to see how he plays against some of the better open floor teams in the league in terms of keeping up, stopping the dribble and settling back defensively into half-court sets.
Over 59 minutes at Utah and Colorado, Anderson shot 7-11 from the floor with 23 points over both games. He had five assists in a close game at Colorado and grabbed 18 total rebounds. His contributions were critical in the big win in Boulder.
Against Oregon State on Thursday, Anderson was the second leading scorer along with Travis Wear at 17 points, and took down nine rebounds, had three assists, two steals and two blocks. He has Gadget arms that were built to play basketball, and his all around game, specifically the rebounding, is becoming more important to the team with each passing game.
Larry Drew II has a moderate, but very steady performing stock. If he had spent some of the time he used to construct what is a top-end dribbling capacity to develop a shot that consistently found the bottom of the net, he would be an elite point guard at this level.
Two logs heavy minutes for the UCLA Bruins, resting only 11 in 80 minutes of basketball last weekend at high-altitude in Salt Lake City and Boulder. But he is well conditioned and durable enough, it seems to handle it. Drew had 12 points, six rebounds and nine assists over both games. He scored zero points against Colorado.
Drew's stock is bolstered by the fact he is the only true point guard on the team and UCLA would struggle for some time trying to replace him if he were injured.
Travis Wear's stock is rising slowly, but steadily. He is like one of those company's that debuted with a lot of promise, but flat-lined for a long time as the systems came on-line and the products started performing.
He has been making shots, and that began early on in what is now a 10 game winning streak. Wear is getting good shots, too, shooting 4-7 at Utah and 11-17 at Colorado for 35 points over both games. He also took down 12 rebounds in 55 minutes over two games and scored 14 crucial second-half points against Colorado in a close game.
Wears' rebounding still needs quite a bit of work, but UCLA's rebounding does across the board.
Against Oregon State, Wear had 17 points on 6-9 shooting and seven rebounds in 30 minutes. That is good, efficient work. Wear could make an enormous impact on the duration of this season if he can bring the big boy boots in clutch games down the road. Wear has become an intriguing spot stock for the savvy, risk taking investor.
David Wear is down some from a low norm—not far down—but holding steady.
Wear is not the scorer his brother is and he is not any better as a rebounder. It is difficult to foresee where a duplicate piece that does everything not quite as well as the other will fit in.
There are times, though, when D. Wear joins the game and delivers a good pass or grabs a significant rebound. He also has a good attitude, which is excellent. That is solid for morale all around and could encourage other bench players to stay involved in the game.
Wear played 39 minutes last weekend at Utah and Colorado, scored three points on 1-4 shooting and had nine rebounds.
This stock is settling into where it will probably stay.
Norman Powell is probably an undervalued piece making an excruciatingly slow rise to where he should be. He dipped at the beginning of the season with low minutes, some minor sulking and underperforming, but regained most of what was lost by keeping his head in games and doing work when the opportunities came.
Last weekend at Utah and Colorado, he played 33 minutes over both games, shot 3-10 and scored eight points with two assists. But he is an athletic defender and plays uptempo with a lot of explosive athletic energy, which is lacking on this team. Powell is not a monstrous athlete, but he is very solid and physically strong as a guard with good height at 6'4''.
Against Oregon State, he played 20 minutes, half the game, and scored five points on 2-5 shooting. Two plays stood out: one where he attacked the rim and finished with a nice power-box lay-in, and a second where he absolutely stuffed a Beaver at the rim, which led to a fast-break outlet pass for the UCLA Bruins.
Powell will be an important bench piece going forward for the minutes he can give, the defense he can play, and the potentially clutch baskets he can score. Powell has strong confidence and is not afraid to hoist a shot when it really counts.
There has not been an IPO on this stock yet.
At Utah and Colorado both, Tony Parker played six minutes, scored four points total on two shots and collected four fouls, including a fairly weak flagrant call.
Coach Howland is hard on him in huddles. Parker looks like he is in a bad place with his confidence and not fitting into the system right now.
With a thin front-line, it looks still like Parker has a roll to play, and perhaps an important one. There is so little to go from that the only logical conclusion to reach is that what is exhibited in practice has not merited trust enough to be placed in games for significant minutes.
Coach Howland's stock makes for a complicated evaluation. He has always been a potent pure basketball coach, but his management over his staff and especially his players has stirred up a hornet's nest of questions regarding his competency.
I mostly like the rotation the coach has settled into. The minutes are good, but not extreme, for the best players and there is solid rest for young players who don't need much. The thing I would like to see more of is Tony Parker.
It is the first 5-0 start in the Pac-12 since 2003-2004, Howland's first year in Westwood. The team is on a 10 game winning streak and clearly improving and solidifying defensively. Offensively, Howland would have a hard time stopping this group from scoring. But getting them to buckle-down like angry demons on defense will be the test.
Coach Howland's tendency to call timeouts after made baskets when the team is clearly coming into a fluid game rhythm has always been baffling, and kept the stock slightly lower than it could have been. It has never been clear how a basketball coach could break the pace of a team that was beginning to move as one, but Howland has always done that and this season it appears there will be no change.