Evaluating the Tar Heels: The Starters

Streeter Lecka

With thirteen non-conference games in the books here is a report card on the Tar Heels so far beginning with the five starters.

James Michael McAdoo, 14.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 46% FG, ORtg: 95.1

So far: Heading into the season McAdoo was slated as being "the guy" to carry UNC. After a nice start against inferior teams, McAdoo has been average at times. The two biggest problems lie with the offensive rating at 95.1 and the shooting which is a less than stellar 46%. That has led to a 14.8 scoring average which probably should be higher. The problem? McAdoo has issues finishing around the rim, hitting good shots and then taking his fair share of rushed bad shots as witnessed by the 1-8 first half against UNLV. For a big man playing around the basket and as touted as McAdoo is, shooting better than 46% is expected and a must.

Outlook: Unfortunately for McAdoo the road against ACC competition is not going to be any easier. Roy Williams says McAdoo needs to slow down since he does tend to rush his shot and force the ball at times. McAdoo showed against UNLV he is an effective passer which might be part of the solution. As much as McAdoo can draw defenders and feed his teammates so much the better. In addition, McAdoo simply needs to be more efficient on the offensive end. Some of that comes from better shot selection but he also could use some help from his teammates in running better offensive sets and getting him the ball in a position he can be productive with it.

Reggie Bullock, 13.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.2 apg, 47% 3P, ORtg: 133.4

So far: Arguably UNC's best and most consistent player. On paper, Bullock has done a little bit of everything and his offensive stats are through the roof. Bullock's 133.4 offensive rating is 17th nationally and his three point shooting is just plain ridiculous. Aside from his on-court prowess, Bullock has been vocal in the media about the state of things as the team has struggled at times to find itself. The biggest knock on Bullock at this stage is perhaps he has been passive when perhaps he should be seeking his own offense in certain situations.

Outlook: With his numbers, Bullock needs to be a bigger part of the offense and it is not a debate. The problem is the offense, in its present form, has not been great at producing consistency. The other problem is Bullock still needs to make the transition from complimentary player to a leading role. When you are the 4th or 5th offensive option, as Bullock was last season, you can afford to let the scoring chances come to you and make the most of them. Bullock is still doing that so some extent which stems from simply looking for his chances within the offense which is fine to a point. Ultimately, UNC will need Bullock to take his game up a notch by creating his own offense and being aggressive going to the basket.

Dexter Strickland, 9.4 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1.6 spg, 47% FG, ORtg 110.4

So far: Any discussion of Strickland begins with his knee and whether or not he is truly back to form after tearing the ACL last January. The early verdict appears to be Strickland is not quite the player he was before the injury. The same confidence is not there nor is the speed which means his game has not been nearly as effective as it was when he could use his speed to slice into an opposing defense. That is more than evident when comparing Strickland's shooting from a year ago. Last season through 19 games, Strickland shot 57% from the floor. He is a full 10% worse this season. Obviously he is taking more jumpers and more shots in general because there are not four NBA draft picks on the floor with him. The other factor is Strickland is not getting to the basket as much as he did last year which likely relates to his knee than anything else.

Outlook: With Strickland's recovery timetable, it makes sense that he is still rounding back into the form. The question is has he reached 100% or is there still some room for him to get closer to where he was pre-injury? There is no way to really answer that except by observing him to see if starts doing 2011-12 things in 2013. If it turns out that Strickland is 90% of what he was, he can still be effective but not as much as UNC needs when it comes to breaking down defenses in the half court. UNC is sorely missing a player who can do that reliably and without that the half court sets will continue to struggle.

Marcus Paige, 7.4 ppg, 4.3 apg, A/TO 1.7 35% FG, ORtg: 92.4

So far: Paige has clearly struggled at times to make the adjustment to the college level. His shooting has been suspect though he has made his share of good shots. The assist total is a tad low but when factored against the fact Bullock and Strickland doing their part to distribute the basketball, Paige's number is not surprising. The freshman PG has also been more of a scorer than passer and not exuding the same control over the offense past UNC PG under Roy Williams have done.

Outlook: The upside for Paige is he is only a freshman and should make significant steps forward as the season progresses. There are already signs Paige is looking more comfortable running the offense and the more he plays, the more he can improve. That being said, Paige playing more could mean less time for someone like P.J. Hairston who clearly should get as much time as possible on the court. Paige's other issue is his size and the degree to which he will likely be abused by bigger point guards in ACC play. While Paige can contribute, it will be interesting to see, as the rotation tightens up, if his role and minutes will change.

Desmond Hubert, 1.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, ORtg: 68.4

So far: Hubert has been the starter at center for eight of UNC's 13 games which is why he is included among the regular starters. Up to this point, he has largely been ineffective, even against inferior teams with one notable exception. On Saturday against UNLV, Hubert was as much a beast as he is capable of being with some solid defense and scoring on an actual offensive move around the basket. Outside of that, Hubert has been below average and leaving Roy Williams open to criticisms of starting a player in the stead of better personnel.

Outlook: One game does not a trend make but if Hubert shows more of what we saw against UNLV, then it will certainly be helpful. That is a big "if" since Hubert's development simply hasn't moved as quickly as most hoped it would. What keeps Hubert in the lineup is his apparent grasp of the defense which puts him ahead of Brice Johnson even though Johnson and Joel James for that matter actually play more. In short, Hubert shows some flashes of something useful but the expectation is UNC will lean more on Johnson or going small in most games.

Tomorrow: The Bench

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