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Unhappy with his role at UCLA, freshman Zach LaVine leaves for the NBA

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Florida vs UCLA
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Mar 27, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Zach LaVine (14) drives tot he basket between Florida Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) and Dorian Finney-Smith (10) during the first half in the semifinals of the south regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at FedExForum. (Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)

In UCLA guard Zach LaVine's last five games this season, he scored a total of 10 points, missed 15 of 19 shots and had more turnovers than field goals.

The raw but promising freshman is leaving for the NBA anyway.

Paul LaVine told the Los Angeles Daily News late Thursday night that his son will declare for the NBA draft because the family thinks LaVine will be a first-round pick and because they aren't happy with how UCLA has used him. UCLA coach Steve Alford has played LaVine almost exclusively off ball, handing the starting point guard job to all-conference Kyle Anderson and giving backup responsibilities to his son, Bryce Alford.

Anderson also will leave for the NBA next season, but there was no guarantee LaVine's role would change. Wings Jordan Adams and Norman Powell are back next season and point guard duties are likely to be split between Alford and incoming freshman Isaac Hamilton, whom the UCLA coaches envision as a point guard even though he was more of a scorer in high school.

“It’s like a marriage,” Paul LaVine told the Daily News. “If it doesn’t work out, you get a divorce. I don’t blame anybody.”

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What makes LaVine's decision somewhat understandable is that there's a good chance he'll be drafted this season, perhaps as high as the late first round. Though LaVine averaged a modest 9.8 points per game and tailed off dramatically the last two months of the season, his 6-foot-5 frame and explosive athleticism make him an intriguing prospect, especially if he were to be able to play point guard someday.

At the same time, LaVine isn't just not ready for the NBA — he's light years from being ready. Aside from being lethal finishing in transition and knocking down spot-up threes, there's almost nothing he does at that level at the moment. He doesn't have a mid-range game, he struggles to create for himself or others off the dribble and he's far from a lock-down defender despite having the tools to become that someday.

LaVine projects now to be the ultimate stash-and-develop gamble for an NBA team with a late first-round pick. There's a chance he never reaches his potential, there's a chance he blossoms and there's a chance it takes him so long to blossom he's on another team by the time he does.

It's understandable LaVine wants the chance to showcase his point guard skills. It's also understandable UCLA seems to think it has better options at the position. 

But with as many areas as LaVine needs to improve, he likely could have elevated his stock simply by returning to UCLA and working on some of the other deficiencies in his game.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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