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Checking in on the NBA’s Tar Heels

The NBA season is well underway. How are the UNC alumni doing around the league?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina currently has thirteen players in the NBA, and that doesn’t include D-Leaguers like Marcus Paige or unsigned free agents like Kendall Marshall. While Duke, Kentucky and Kansas have gotten more attention as of late for pumping out pro prospects, there are still several Tar Heels making plays, draining threes and dunking over everything each and every night. Let’s take a look at how some UNC players have started the season:

Harrison Barnes (Dallas Mavericks)

Harrison Barnes had a tough few months. A terrible playoffs performance gave way to being discarded by the Golden State Warriors for Kevin Durant. He signed with the Dallas Mavericks for a massive deal, and more jokes and criticism ensued about how he didn’t deserve any of it. Then he underwhelmed for the Olympic team and straight up stunk in the NBA’s preseason.

But the season started and, although the Mavericks are a woeful 0-5, Barnes has actually played rather well. He’s averaging just over 18 points a game on 48.7 percent shooting from the field. Moreover, he’s grabbing a career-high rebounds per game (6.2). His three-point shot still has some issues—he’s at just 33.3 percent—but Barnes looks every bit the player the Warriors had a season or two ago. Unfortunately, for the Mavs right now, they need him to be even better than this.

Vince Carter (Memphis Grizzlies)

Vince Carter, currently in his 21st season, is one of the longest-tenured players in the NBA and is still playing just under 26 minutes every game. Carter’s been hit-and-miss in the Grizzlies’ first six games, except for an 18-point explosion in a win against the Washington Wizards. At this point in his career, Carter is a reliable bench player who adds so much experience and leadership in Memphis. Enjoy the rare athletic dunk or double-digit scoring performance off the bench because Carter probably won’t be around for too much longer.

Raymond Felton (Los Angeles Clippers)

Raymond Felton is still doing his “bigger” point guard thing in the NBA, as he now enters his 13th season in the league. Felton had a comeback year for the Dallas Mavericks last season and came up big in a massive win in the playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He now backs up Chris Paul in L.A., and he’s been strong so far. Particularly, Felton’s been a hot shooter in the first five games, shooting over 47 percent from the field and an absurd 57.1 percent from deep. What Felton does in the regular season won’t be as important as the playoffs, though. The Clippers could really use his experience and shooting to give Paul rests here and there in big-time series.

Marvin Williams (Charlotte Hornets)

Marvin Williams has had a resurgence as a stretch 4 for the Hornets but, this season, he has just been dreadful. His averages of 9.2 points and 7.2 rebounds are decent, but he has disappointing shooting numbers of 32.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from deep. If those numbers don’t get higher soon, there’s a chance Williams losing out on minutes to some of his younger counterparts. Williams just has to hit his jump shots for Charlotte to continually keep him in the lineup.

Ty Lawson (Sacramento Kings)

Ty Lawson has fallen quickly from one of the NBA’s better point guards to now one of the most inconsistent and unreliable. After several successful seasons with the Denver Nuggets, Lawson can’t make it stick anywhere else. The last two years, he underperformed in Houston and in Indiana and, thus far, the same looks to be happening in Sacramento. Lawson is the starting point guard for the 2-4 Kings, but he’s arguably been one of the worst point men in the league. He’s averaging 7.5 points and 6 assists, while shooting under 40 percent from the field and just a hair over 30 percent from deep. Coupled with his off-the-court issues, it’s not hard to imagine Lawson being out of the league sooner rather than later.

John Henson (Milwaukee Bucks)

John Henson has carved himself out a nice spot in the Bucks’ rotation, acting as a bouncy defensive force with his long arms and amazing athleticism. He’s never going to have a big impact on the offensive end—under 3 points a game this season—but he’s averaging a stellar 6 rebounds in just 15 minutes played. His blocks are down to start the year. That should improve.

Ed Davis (Portland Trail Blazers)

After a great first season in Portland coming off the bench, Ed Davis is struggling to make an impact in 15 minutes a game. Nearly all of his numbers are career-lows, and it seems as though the Blazers coaching staff prefers using the younger Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard. Davis is a reliable, well-rounded big man and that should always find him a roster spot, but anything more than that might be expecting too much.

James Michael McAdoo (Golden State Warriors)

The Warriors have been surprisingly inconsistent to start the season, and one of those reasons is a lack of depth and rim protection. James Michael McAdoo is now in his third year, and there was faint hope he could help with both of those aspects. But he’s done neither. McAdoo only plays in garbage time, and one has to wonder how much longer he’ll be on the team without Barnes and without any noticeable improvement in his play.

Tyler Zeller (Boston Celtics)

As versatile and deep as the Boston Celtics are, Tyler Zeller is still performing and playing 20 minutes every night. His numbers of 8.6 rebounds and 5.4 rebounds don’t wow you, but his 7’0” frame and finishing ability are big pluses for coach Brad Stephens’ Celtics.

Elsewhere, Danny Green (San Antonio Spurs), Reggie Bullock (Detroit Pistons), Wayne Ellington (Miami Heat) and Brandan Wright (Memphis Grizzles) have all yet to play a game this season, whether due to injury or depth. Once Green returns, he should find himself right back in his important 3-and-D role for the Spurs, and Wright can be an important backup center for the Grizzlies. Brice Johnson, too, is out a few more weeks for the Los Angeles Clippers, but he could be an exciting guy off their bench.