UCLA Basketball: The Fate of Recently Departed Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee

Robert Pace@Robert_PaceContributor IIIJanuary 2, 2012

Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt left UCLA prematurely to enter the 2011 NBA Draft. What are they up to now?
Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt left UCLA prematurely to enter the 2011 NBA Draft. What are they up to now?Jeff Gross/Getty Images

With the UCLA basketball team struggling to exceed mediocrity this season, a drift into the hypothetical seems like a good distraction for Bruins fans. 

Imagine this season with UCLA's top three scorers from last year: Reeves Nelson, Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee

Honeycutt and Lee entered the 2011 NBA Draft and Reeves Nelson was dismissed from the team earlier this season after his continued disciplinary issues. 

The Bruins would undoubtedly be a top team in the Pac-12 and would have a good chance to be in the NCAA Top 25 had those guys stuck around and finished their UCLA careers. 

Lee left to the surprise of many after his junior year and Honeycutt decided to enter the draft after his sophomore season. 

So, what are those guys up to now after both being draft in the second round?

Tyler Honeycutt was just assigned to the NBA's D-League by the Sacramento Kings and Malcolm Lee just injured his knee and will subsequently be sidelined for at least six weeks from the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

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There's no doubt that the once-Bruin stars were being told by agents and others that they could be first-round picks and millionaires. 

Oh, the fame and fortune!

Honeycutt and Lee still have the potential to have successful NBA careers, but an extra year of college ball wouldn't have killed them and they both could have raised their stock with stellar performances as seniors. 

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19:  Tyler Honeycutt #23 of the UCLA Bruins drives for a shot attempt against the Florida Gators during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Although they departed the Bruins squad in the same year to enter the draft as eventual second-round picks, Honeycutt and Lee represent the two opposing views on players leaving college basketball prematurely for the NBA. 

Lee's situation exemplifies the positive argument for players entering the NBA Draft prematurely on the basis of the uncertainty of continued health. 

Towards the end of his junior season at UCLA, Lee struggled with knee injuries and underwent knee surgery as a result. 

With the possibility of recurring knee injuries to come like the one he just suffered, Lee perhaps had the foresight to capitalize on his basketball career and enter the NBA Draft in the face of uncertainty. 

In light of Lee's current situation, his decision to leave the Bruins for the NBA doesn't appear to have been such a bad decision. His tender knee would have most likely found him sidelined regardless of which league he played in. 

However, if Lee's current knee tribulations persist, what will the fate be of the rest of his life? In the worst-case scenario, Lee's injuries could prevent him from ever playing on an NBA court. Then what? Would he go back to college and get his degree?

On the other end of the spectrum is Tyler Honeycutt's story—a college sophomore who entered the draft with high hopes only to be selected in the second round and be sent down to the D-League in the beginning of the season. 

The D-League is short for "Development League." Development. Players usually develop and refine their skills in their junior and senior collegiate seasons. Instead, Honeycutt is on low salary playing in an average league. 

That's certainly not what Honeycutt had envisioned when he entered the draft last year. Which raises an interesting question: do these young, collegiate athletes have the intelligence and perspective to make these important decisions? 

Honeycutt was a great collegiate player, but I'm not sure anyone believed he was a first-round worthy player (which is the same story with Lee). Well, except for him. He still had some tweaks to make in his game before he became one of the best players in the NCAA. 

One or two more years in college would have made Honeycutt almost assuredly a lottery pick. 

Here you have it—the two varying stances on collegiate players leaving early for the NBA exemplified by recently-departed Bruins. 

Regardless, the Bruins would love to have Lee and Honeycutt back in this roller-coaster season. 

Given a second chance, would they still be in Bruins uniforms?


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