Two months and roughly 25 games into the NBA season, fortunes have changed for several Tar Heels. Injury, demotion, and in one case promotion remind us yet again that in the pros anything can happen. Here are how things stand for the many Carolina players still in the NBA:
(in alphabetical order)
As he has been the last couple years, Harrison Barnes is the crown jewel of Tar Heel alums. Once again, Barnes is a good player on a very bad Mavericks team. He is averaging 18.5 ppg and trying to establish a young core with rookie Dennis Smith Jr. This has met with little success: The Mavs are 7-20. Barnes has struggled from three (33%) but has boosted his rebounding, averaging a career high of 7.4 per game.
UNC's one-and-one rookie has had a very strange couple of months. Bradley was sent down to the G League at the start of the season but was recalled within a couple of weeks, after playing great ball for Salt Lake. He has since appeared only in 7 games for the Jazz. He'll be looking to play his way into the rotation as the season progresses.
Reggie Bullock can't catch a break. His last few seasons have been tainted by injury and this one has been no exception. Early in the year he appeared in the starting lineup for the Pistons, but was sidelined due to back spasms. When he tried to ease back into regular minutes, he suffered a torn meniscus that will have him out 2-4 months.
Father Time is still held at bay. Carter, the oldest player in the NBA, is still going, though in a diminished role in Sacramento. The future Hall of Famer is averaging just 13.1 minute per game (2.8 ppg, 1.4 apg), playing more of a mentor role to the Kings' young talent, particularly De'Aron Fox and Justin Jackson (more on that later). Who's to say what the future holds for Vinsanity, but if this start to the season is any indicator, this is likely the last year we see Carter in uniform.
The former national champion is still giving the Blazers solid production off the bench. Davis is currently averaging 4.7 ppg and 7.1 rpg, which are perfectly respectable numbers for a bench player but far more impressive when considering he's only playing 17.2 minutes a game. His per-36 average would put him not far behind league-leader Andre Drummond, for what that's worth.
The 2009 Final Four MVP remains a solid bench player for Miami, averaging 8.4 ppg on 40% from beyond the arc. His minutes are a bit down from last year, but Ellington is still as good a backup shooter as any in the league.
Backing up tireless freak of nature Russell Westbrook can be a thankless task, but Felton has managed to get on the court for some solid minutes in OKC. He's averaging 17 minutes a game and giving them 6.4 ppg and 2.4 apg. Unfortunately the Thunder remain inexplicably mediocre.
New year, same story. Dancin' Danny is still one of the best 3 and D guys in the NBA, starting for yet another strong Spur team. The injury to Kawhi Leonard has given Green little more of the load to bear; he saw and increase in both minutes and shot attempts. He is averaging 9.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and 2.0 apg, while giving San Antonio his usual scrappy perimeter defense.
Henson's sixth year in Milwaukee has seen yet another twist: The Bucks are looking like contenders in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks traded for Eric Bledsoe early this year, sending Greg Monroe to Phoenix. Henson has taken on more responsibility, starting 17 games for the Bucks already. He also gets an up close view of the Greek Freak take over the Earth.
Hicks signed a two-way contract with the Knicks, allowing him to play as many as 41 games for the squad and the rest in G League. He has been playing brilliantly for the Westchester Knicks, averaging 18.2 ppg, 8.8 rag, and 1.6 bpg. He won't get to 41 with the A-team but if his play in G League keeps up he could get a call up soon.
As mentioned earlier, Jackson was hoping to receive some veteran aid from a fellow Tar Heel in Sacramento. Unfortunately, Jackson was sent down to the Reno Bighorns after a month in the NBA. He had struggled with his shot in the early going, averaging just 39% from the field and 33% from the three. Hopefully a more featured role in Reno will boost his confidence (and shot) going forward.
I wrote a couple weeks ago that a developing NBA player needs an "I Love You" from a coach or GM to make it in the NBA. Well, Brice isn't getting it from Clippers coach (and Dookie dad) Doc Rivers. Despite a very strong showing in Summer League, he has appeared in only 7 regular season games, losing out to the likes of Montrezl Harrel and Willie Reed. Expect a new home for Johnson before long; he doesn't fit into LA's plans and could garner them some assets on the trading block.
Kennedy was technically waived by the Raptors and is on a G League contract with Raptors 905, but I feel it's my duty to update us all on the fact that Kennedy has lost more weight, looks slimmer and quicker than ever, and has started to develop a three point shot.
Paige has been making the most of his time with the Greensboro Swarm (the G League part of his two-way with the Hornets). He went for a career high on Saturday against Reno (and Justin Jackson), scoring 32 points. He's averaging 15 ppg and 4 apg on the season. He is hoping to consistently suit up for Charlotte.
UNC's one-and-done-before-it-was-cool is still a starter and defensive leader for the Hornets. In addition to his defensive prowess, he has improved upon his outside game, averaging a career high of 44% from beyond the arc, making him arguably the largest 3 and D player in the NBA.
UNC's one-and-done-when-it-was-a-thing got to witness early season discord when the David Fizdale-Marc Gasol Feud ended with Fizzle being fired. Wright is still coming off the bench for Memphis, averaging 5.3 ppg and 3.4 rpg for a Grizzlies team that looks like its best days are behind it.
The former ACC POY has been getting some starting opportunities in Brooklyn now thanks to their emaciated front court depth. He has started nine times for the Nets and has seen his minutes go up in recent weeks. For the season, he is averaging 8.5 ppg and 4.9 rpg.