This question was discussed a ton on the postgame thread. Now that there are 11 games in the hopper, enough to really analyze some stats and see the Heels against quality competition, we can begin wildly speculating on who Roy Williams should be playing. Because he really loves it when UNC fans do that.
We should go ahead and get the elephant in the room out of the way upfront. For reasons that only Roy knows, Will Graves continues to run out during lineup introductions instead of coming into the game as the eighth or ninth player off the bench. It was rumored back in preseason that Roy was bending over backwards to help Graves out. Graves' weight was an issue and partially blamed on a back issue which may be a result of the weight issue. Let me know when you want to me stop that merry-go-round. Anyway, Graves' experience and potential as a shooter earned him a spot in the starting lineup which was met by some with this fear: "If Graves is a starter now then he will be forever." Unfortunately that is a legitimate concern given what we know about Roy Williams. Most of last season UNC fans burned numerous hours on message board advocating Deon Thompson be benched in favor of Ed Davis as a starter. When these suggestions made their way to Roy's radio show he indicated his annoyance with fans suggesting, well anything to him,
In the case of Thompson, I was not one to dwell too much on starting him over Davis. Thompson is a good player and was then. If Roy wanted to massage his confidence by starting him over Davis then there was certainly room to do that since (1) Thompson could be effective in spots and (2) he was the fifth option on a team with three NBA first rounders and Danny Green. If Thompson disappeared no one really noticed because of the other players. In the case of Graves, there is no room to prop up his confidence or make him feel better. UNC needs the best players on the court and after 11 games it is clear Graves is not one of them. And this is not to pick on Graves, it is just that among the players UNC uses in the rotation his poor play is the most evident and persistent. Graves is shootin 34% from the floor and 33% from three. He is a poor ball handler and at times cannot even catch the simplest of passes thrown his way. At this point I find it hard to believe that David or Travis Wear would not make more sense at the SF spot than Graves unless Roy would rather not run a 6-9 player at that spot for matchup reasons.
The other option is to move Marcus Ginyard over to the three and start Dexter Strickland at the two beside Larry Drew. The hangup there is putting all your point guards on the court at the same time forcing you to rotate John Henson and Graves in to the SF anyway so you can slide Ginyard back over to the two when Strickland spells Drew at the one. Again I am not sure that works so well and it highlights UNC's need for another quality PG on the roster, a need that will not be addressed until Kendall Marshall is on campus. The unfortunate side of that is Strickland might be the best pure scorer UNC has and possibly the only player on the roster who looks like he has the skills to take a game over if needed. If there is one major deficiency UNC has it is a scorer from the wing and when I say scorer, not just someone who can pop threes but a player who does that and can penetrate to create offense. Drew is very much the former with only flashes of creating offense on his own. That is not really detrimental since Drew is more of a facilitator as long as there are other options on the floor. Strickland could be that option but at his present rate of 14 mpg, his effectiveness will be limited.
The other two players who are getting some grief in that "these guys should play less" sort of way are Ginyard and Thompson. I am not inclined to toss either of these guys under the bus. Thompson is still the best option at the four and despite his ability to not show up at times, I think will be better than most of the big men in the ACC. Thompson will be fine and really has to be since there are not any other players to effectively play in that slot. Well, that is unless you put Tyler Zeller in at center and move Davis over which might give you something. However, if Roy is not willing to sit Thompson under the conditions of last season, then whatever chances are less than zero are the ones I would put on it happening now.
Confidence in Ginyard is obviously a little lower, mainly on the basis of the aesthetics of his game rather than the numbers. The two biggest concerns for Ginyard are FT shooting and turnovers. Ginyard is not a great offensive player in terms of being a scorer but he is an experience player and one of the better defenders on the team. Ginyard could also stand to be in control a little more which speaks to the turnovers more than anything else. I am not convinced his presence on the floor is harmful or that the tradeoff with someone else would be that big of a gain.
So to answer the original question of which players would give UNC the best chance to win? Well, in simple terms it looks like everyone but Will Graves which probably is not fair to him except it is difficult to point to other players and say without a doubt they should have their playing time reduced. It is not the case for Ginyard and Thompson, at least not enough at this point to worry about. With Graves it is an issue of what the numbers say and his potential. If he finds his three point shot it surely will help but I am not sure there is enough there to warrant him playing more than younger players such as Strickland or the Wears who are more talented and with whom the future of the program lies.
Knowing Roy, he will not make a change and if he does it will be in the rotation during the game what sees Graves play fewer minutes as opposed to other personnel. My opinion is that less of Graves and more from some combination of Strickland/Wears/even Henson offers the best opportunity to win games. It will be interesting to see to what extent Roy uses the next few games to try out some new lineups or whether the way it has been is the way it will be for the remainder of the season.