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Wrapping up the NBA Combine: Paige Finishes Strong, Jackson Struggles

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Combine wrapped up over the weekend with UNC's trio of players leaving Chicago on different trajectories.

Justin Jackson

As the only underclassmen of the three UNC players at the combine, Jackson is garnering the most attention from Tar Heel partisans who want to now whether he is returning for his junior season or not. If the combine results are an indication, Jackson path to the NBA at this time could be a difficult one. The rising junior wing played in both 5-on-5 scrimmages in Chicago. On Thursday he played 19 minutes scoring seven points on 2-8 shooting and 1-4 from three to go with just one rebound. On Friday Jackson's shooting was slightly better at 3-6 and 1-3 from three for eight points. He added three rebounds and one assists in 21 minutes. However Jackson didn't really do anything to stand out in the scrimmage and the absence of a reliable perimeter shot is a massive problem right now as noted by Draft Express.

The 21-year-old forward is, for all intents and purposes, the same player, both physically and skill wise, that he was as a freshman at North Carolina. His body hasn't changed and he still continues to struggle making shots from the perimeter with any consistency. Jackson has some scoring instincts and is very opportunistic in transition, but he'll really need to become a reliable jump shooter to be considered a serious NBA prospect due to some of his physical and shot creation limitations.

In theory, Jackson probably hasn't done enough to warrant being drafted in either round meaning if he did leave Chapel Hill now it would be along the McAdoo/Tokoto road(aka D-League.) While returning might look like cut and dry decision there are a couple of factors. One is Jackson's age. He is already 21 which makes him a tad on the older side. The other issue is three point shot has been pretty stagnant in two seasons at UNC. He shot 30% in 2015 and 29% in 2016. It doesn't seem likely that number is going to simply jump to 35% or better as a junior with one caveat. Jackson has shown the propensity to be cold for half the season then heat up during the latter stages. In 2016 Jackson shot 20% from three through the first 23 games on 64 attempts. Over the final 17 games of the season Jackson show 39% on 56 attempts. If Jackson can find a way to shoot like he did over the final 17 games over the course of the whole season it would certainly improve his stock.

At this point it appears Jackson's decision rests on whether he is wants to play another season of college basketball or move on to the next stage in his basketball career regardless of where that might lead.

Marcus Paige

Paige finished out his combine experience with a strong showing in the Friday scrimmage. During the Thursday scrimmage Paige struggled early with his shot but finished the game hitting back-to-back threes to finish with 8 points and five assists. Friday's outing was everything he could have asked for in an effort to impress teams. Paige scored 16 points on 6-11 shooting and 3-4 from three in 23 minutes. He also dished out five assists.

In terms of the athletic testing, Paige showed off his leaping ability posting a max vertical leap of 39.5 inches which was tied for 8th at the combine. He measured 6-0.5 without shoes and weighed in at 164 pounds. His body fat was a nice and tidy 4.3%.

Draft Express has a quick rundown of Paige's prospects coming out of the combine which boils down to catching the right breaks and finding a good fit.

Brice Johnson

The updates on Brice Johnson has been scarce because the UNC big men really didn't do much at the combine outside of athletic testing and interviews. That's probably a good sign for his draft prospects since he didn't really need to prove anything by playing in the scrimmages. Overall, Johnson's measurements were solid with the only concern being his weight. While UNC had him listed at 230, Johnson tipped the scales in Chicago at 209 which is on the thin side for a player expected to guard bigger, stronger players at the next level.

In case you were wondering, Johnson's max vertical leap was measured at 38.0 inches. Add that to standing reach of 8-10.5 and you understand why it felt like sometimes Johnson was looking down at the rim on some of his angrier dunks.

Draft Express currently has Johnson projected as the 30th pick in the draft going to the Golden State Warriors.