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Tony Bradley leaving for the NBA could help North Carolina sooner than later

With the final NBA draft deadline looming, Tony Bradley’s decision could impact recruiting for 2018.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Kentucky Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The deadline for NBA prospects to either stay in the draft or head back to school is coming up on Wednesday, May 24th. With the deadline looming, UNC fans are watching closely to see whether or not UNC big man Tony Bradley will sign an agent or make his way back to Chapel Hill.

With his current draft projection, it’s hard to determine whether or not he will stay in the draft given what he has said in the past about wanting a guarantee that he will be drafted in the first round. Should Bradley stay in the draft, how could this benefit UNC in the long run? Enter Zion Williamson.

If we’re being truthful, Bradley staying in the draft would eliminate the strange and very much false notion that Roy Williams holds his players back and tries to keep them as long as he can. It really shouldn’t be something that needs disproving, but given that the program hasn’t had a one-and-done player in 10 years it’s become a very common bargaining chip for other players (as has all of the “junk” that UNC has had to put up with).

There have been weird situations that have ultimately worked out in UNC’s favor in terms of who has stayed around campus. Most recently, the best example of that is Justin Jackson who stayed until his junior season before signing an agent and entering the draft.

Back in February, ESPN analyst Jay Williams wondered if UNC would even ever get a one-and-done player again as long as this system stays in place:

“Man, when you think about kids, you would think so,” Jay Williams said. “But it's about how you market yourself. ... Kids are different these days. These kids almost look for the quick fix. I think these kids look for what's shiny and what looks great and ‘Who can sell me the best?’ Now I'm not saying that Roy Williams isn't a great seller, but I don't know that I put Roy Williams in the same category as I do John Calipari, right?

“Calipari is getting you to talk about his program around the NBA draft, when he's like, ‘All of my players are going to make themselves eligible (for the draft).’ ... And he dominates headlines. And if you're a kid at home, a top-20 player with a chance to go to the next level, you're reading that and saying, ‘You're damn right that's where I want to go to school.’ ”

Going back to Tony Bradley, should he decide to stay in the NBA draft he could (finally) begin the trend of one-and-done players coming out of UNC. Depending on playing time and production, Jalek Felton is another player who may or may not end up a one-and-done player when it is all said and done.

Should he decide to follow the path of Bradley, the number 2 player for the 2018 recruiting class in Zion Williamson may begin to look long and hard to bringing his talents to Chapel Hill.

During his time at Spartanburg Day Academy, Zion Williamson averaged 31 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Roy Williams and the UNC staff have made Williamson their top priority for the 2018 class, having already locked down two big time players despite their lack of 5-star status (yet).

They have made him so much of a priority, that Roy has already used five of his seven allowed visits to the recruit that the NCAA allows. Williamson also attended the senior night win against Duke back in March.

The fact of the matter is this: at worst Tony Bradley becoming the first one-and-done in 10 years will provide Roy Williams with the ultimate bargaining chip to convince a big time recruit to attend UNC. Gone would be the days where the likes of Kentucky and Duke can say that players are “handcuffed” and forced to stay in Chapel Hill.

Zion Williamson could be the catalyst that would finally put an end to UNC missing out on recruits that they used to be able to get quite regularly. UNC is obviously doing quite well regardless of no OADs, coming off of a National Championship win, but it doesn’t hurt to sweeten the pot long-term by having Bradley ignite a trend of top 15 players once again returning to UNC.