Here is a look back at the 2014-15 season for the returning Tar Heels. Today we look at freshman Theo Pinson.
Theo Pinson arrived on campus as part of a three man recruiting class that was believed to fill in some of the missing production(i.e. perimeter shooting) from the 2014 season. It didn't quite pan out that way until the final quarter of the schedule. Pinson was seen in the mold of defensive stopper and rebounder who has some offensive capability. In the Bahamas, Pinson had seven rebounds and three assists in a rout of UCLA. Against Notre Dame in January, Pinson keyed a second half run versus the Irish scoring seven points and pulling eight rebounds in 14 minutes. More importantly, Pinson was a solid defender and brought energy of the bench.
Then the injury bug bit. Pinson took an odd step in UNC's 87-71 win at Wake Forest on January 21st and broke a bone in his foot. He would miss the next ten games returning versus Georgia Tech on March 3rd but re-aggravating the injury prior to the ACC Tournament. Pinson returned to play in all three NCAA Tournament games for a total of 14 minutes where he was largely a non-factor.
It should be noted that UNC's overall defensive efficiency began to suffer mightily around the time of Pinson's injury. Since his minutes were limited, that might be a coincidence but intriguing nonetheless.
What to expect next season
This section takes on a much different light now that J.P. Tokoto has announced he will enter the NBA Draft. If the roster remains as it is, Pinson might end up taking Tokoto's place in the starting lineup. He fits the bill for Roy Williams' preference to have a wing starter that is defensive minded with a penchant for stuffing the stat sheet. If Pinson does get that spot, he won't be a primary offensive threat however if he can provide perimeter shooting it only bolsters UNC's overall offensive game.
If Williams decides to go with Joel Berry at PG and move Marcus Paige to WG with Justin Jackson at WF, Pinson becomes the spark off the bench as a energy guy. If he ends up in a sixth man type of role, some improvement to his three point shot would be in order. Pinson hit 27% from three going 7-for-26. While his defense will perhaps be his most valuable contribution, UNC can ill afford to suffer offensively when Pinson enters the game. In that respect Pinson being a legitimate scoring threat off the bench is a necessary component. If not, then plugging him in as a starter and bringing the more offensively capable Berry off the bench might make more sense.
Besides his shooting, one area of concern for Pinson is his decision making. For all the issues people had with Tokoto's brain dead moments, Pinson showed signs of having similar problems. Whether it be dribbling too much, taking an ill-advised shot or making a pass with a low rate of success, Pinson showed some similarities to Tokoto. The key difference with Pinson might be his malleability with Roy Williams. Whereas Tokoto appeared to be set in his ways, it is more likely that Pinson will accept his role. He still will be a high risk/high reward kind of player but also one with more overall basketball skill than Tokoto.