UCLA basketball: Malcolm Lee to declare for NBA draft, conduct workouts
As expected, UCLA junior guard Malcolm Lee announced Tuesday that he would declare for the NBA draft but not hire an agent, preserving his option to return for his senior season.
Lee said the biggest factor in his decision was the improvement he made from last year to this season, when he became the Bruins' top defender and second-leading scorer, averaging 13.1 points per game.
"I feel like I'm a first-round draft pick," Lee said in a teleconference with reporters, "but my opinion really doesn't mean anything. If they feel that I'm not a first-round draft pick, I can improve my stock in the workouts."
Lee can begin working out for NBA teams on April 28 and has until May 8 to withdraw his name from the draft if he intends to return to UCLA. He said he expects to be recovered from the knee surgery he had last week by the start of workouts, "but you really don't know until you get out there and start actually doing the cuts and going against competition."
Lee and Bruins Coach Ben Howland have submitted a questionnaire to the NBA, which will provide feedback on where teams envision Lee being drafted going into the workouts. Howland said he expected to receive the feedback in a week to 10 days.
Howland said he supported Lee's decision to assess his draft status while working out for a handful of teams.
"Malcolm's smart," Howland said. "He knows that if from that feedback someone doesn't tell him, 'Hey, we're going to take you in the first round,' then it doesn't make sense [to go in the draft], especially with the lockout and the fact that he'll be a huge focal point for our team next year, both offensively and defensively.
"So he'll make a good decision based on whatever feedback he gets from the NBA teams."
Lee said he did not have a projection threshold that would help him decide whether to come back for his senior season. He said UCLA's potential for success with a team that could have everyone returning except sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt, who said Monday he would hire an agent and enter the draft, would also be a factor.
"That's definitely on my mind," Lee said. "The potential that this team could be next year, that could be a deciding factor. If I were to come back, we'd be a top team still because we do have talent."
-- Ben Bolch
Photo: Malcolm Lee drives the basket against USC's Jio Fontan. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times