This weekend the NBA sent out their invites to the NBA Draft Combine. According to a source at Inside Carolina, Tony Bradley is one of the 65 players to receive an invite to participate. If this is confirmed, what does this mean for Tony Bradley? Also, what does this mean for his future at UNC?
Tony Bradley’s invitation provides no guarantees
Bradley receiving an invitation to the combine does not actually guarantee that he will go in the first round. This is important to keep in mind because Bradley and his father clearly have a very specific goal in mind when it comes to his future. One can certainly understand this goal, and it’s honestly not unreachable by any stretch of the imagination. However, there are 65 players invited to the combine, so mathematically it is impossible for all of the players invited to go in the first round of the draft.
Remember Justin Jackson
The other thing to remember to keep in mind about Tony Bradley entering the combine is that Justin Jackson went through the combine last year and made the decision to come back. After receiving the news from NBA executives that he’d be projected to get drafted between 40 and 60, Jackson made the decision to return to UNC to increase his draft spot and also make another run at the National Championship. While Bradley achieved the latter his freshman year, it still could be worth his while to come back to increase his draft stock.
Even with a strong combine performance, Bradley does only have a bench role’s amount of experience in the college ranks. To be clear: this doesn’t HAVE to mean anything, and he still very well could get projected to go in the first round. However, due to a weaker draft class next year, and with the chance to play the primary role in Roy Williams’ inside-out game, the only real way for Tony Bradley to move is up should he decide to come back. With all of the incoming post-players being freshmen/transfers, there’s no short amount of uncertainty to the kind of production UNC will get should Bradley decide to go to the NBA.
Tony Bradley could kill the combine
There is a very strong possibility that Tony Bradley is just a flat out good player. In fact, Tony Bradley is a REALLY good player. He gets up and down the floor in transition, his size and length are a nightmare for defenders, his rebounding skills are impressive, and he’s not incredibly foul-prone for his position. The only strong knock on his game right now would be his mid-range shot, which leaves a lot to be desired. If NBA execs find that his strengths are far greater than his weaknesses, he just might get projected to go in the first round by the time the combine is finished.
It is not an unusual thing for bench players to go high in the draft. Kentucky might be the strongest example of this, as they tend to recruit so many potential OAD players that some of their high level talent has to come off of the bench. It was a similar situation with UNC this year, where there simply just wasn’t room in the starting lineup for Bradley. Kennedy Meeks had been an established starter in the post, and Isaiah Hicks made better sense at the four spot than Bradley would have. It is very possible that NBA scouts will not focus on it too much, but it remains to be seen. I will say, given what Mitch Trubisky had to hear before getting drafted this weekend, it wouldn’t shock me if it didn’t come up more than a few times from some individuals in the NBA/media.
Impact on Kevin Knox
The million dollar question is what, if any, impact that Bradley and/or Pinson will have on Kevin Knox making his way to UNC. While this may seem like a silly thing to think about, I think there is some relevance to the situation should Bradley stay in the draft. First, I should make it clear that Justin Jackson was the strongest factor to whether or not Knox keeps UNC on the list. He would basically be used in very similar ways to how Jackson was used, so it only makes sense that Jackson departing is a bigger “what more do you want” piece of the puzzle.
However, there’s one thing about Tony Bradley going to the draft that has its own level of intrigue. Kevin Knox is a small forward, but should UNC decide to (or needs to) go small, Knox would slide into the 4 spot more than likely. It’s also worth noting that during Jackson’s freshman/sophomore season, Roy Williams was on Justin Jackson pretty hard about his rebounding ability.
While Bradley going to the draft isn’t necessary for Knox to be a strong rebounder, there would definitely be a slight tilt in Knox’s favor on the boards when there isn’t a towering Bradley at the hoop snatching down rebounds. Indeed there are more post players with UNC, but it gives you an idea of just how good Bradley is at the boards. Should Tony Bradley stay in the draft, the overall answer to the impact of Knox’s decision is very minimal to non-existent, but on the court it could make lineups a bit more interesting.
Where do you think Bradley will get projected to get drafted following the combine? Do you think he will make a return to Chapel Hill? Let us know in the comments below.