Exactly four weeks from today, the newest crop of players will wait anxiously to hear their names called. Some will. Most will not. Picking a correct mock draft is on the same level as having the correct March Madness bracket or winning the Power Ball. It’s almost impossible. We can, however, look where a player’s skill set would work. So where do these UNC pro prospects fit the best?
Justin Jackson – SF
Jackson is a shooter. He can shoot off of the screen and his driving floater is a thing of beauty. He has been predicted anywhere as high as the bottom of the lottery (10th) and as low as the mid-20’s. A natural fit would be with the Hornets. Their pick at 11 is a little higher than his average of 15, but there are some rumors that they could give him a close look.
Charlotte brought in shooters Nicolas Batum, Marco Belinelli, and Marvin Williams to help Kemba Walker behind the arc. They drafted Frank Kaminsky as a stretch forward. None of them shot better than Kemba Walker’s 39.9% from three-point range last season, which put Walker tied for 33rd in the League. Jackson shot a hair over 37% in his final year at UNC from behind the three-point line.
Tony Bradley – C
In a shocking-but-not-so-shocking decision, Bradley decided to keep his name in the draft. Bradley showed his potential in his lone year in Carolina Blue. He plays well around the rim as he averaged seven points and five rebounds while only playing 15 minutes per game. He’s not a formidable shot blocker, but does change shots with his 7’4” wingspan.
Bradley’s draft predictions are all over the board. Chad Ford of ESPN has him going in the mid-20’s while others have him in the low-30’s and high-40’s. His average pick is 33. In that range is a team that could use another big man; the Atlanta Hawks pick at 31.
Why the Hawks? They have Dwight Howard, right? Yes, but let’s look deeper into the depth chart. Dwight Howard is the only listed center. Kris Humphries is listed as his backup. The Hawks power forwards include Paul Millsap, Ersan Illyasova, and Ryan Kelly (ugh). Bradley at 6’11” could play the four in a bigger lineup and slide into the five when Howard is off of the court. Atlanta was 12th in the League last season in rebounding with only a +0.4 rebounding differential. They could use another big man to pull in the rebounds.
Isaiah Hicks – PF/C
Hicks slowly evolved from a shaky role player to a solid starter in four years at UNC. He averaged 12 points and five rebounds per game in his senior season. On a team with Kennedy Meeks, it was hard to grab rebounds, but Hicks made his mark as a big man who had a nice touch around the paint.
Many experts are predicting that Hicks could be taken in the late 2nd Round. The best fit for him, however, does not have a pick then. The best fit for Hicks would be to find a team that is unsure of its big man rotation. Toronto is a good example. In the playoffs, Toronto moved Serge Ibaka into the Center role to avoid having to play perimeter defense on athletic forwards. This pushed Patrick Patterson and Jonas Valanciunas into splitting the four spot. If Hicks could find a spot on the Raptor’s Summer League squad and shine as a combo big man, he could break into the roster as a reserve forward on a team that is still figuring out their rotation.
Kennedy Meeks – PF/C
Meeks was an absolute monster on the boards for Carolina. He finished his senior season almost averaging a double-double with 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Meeks made it a habit of scoring off offensive rebounds. Not afraid to use his size in the paint, Meeks pulled down 1,052 rebounds during his time at UNC. That’s enough for 5th all-time in the UNC record books.
Most experts have Meeks going undrafted, but he could sneak into the late picks of the 2nd Round. His best fit would be a team that needs help rebounding. The Dallas Mavericks were dead last in rebounding differential last season. Dirk Nowitzki is entering his 20th season and his future beyond next season is cloudy, at best. Nerlens Noel has been slowed by injuries and two left knee surgeries. Meeks would work nicely as a reserve on a squad that offers Dwight Powell and Salah Mejri as the current backups to Nowitzki and Noel, respectively.
Nate Britt – PG/SG
Britt struggled as the backup to Joel Berry. Averaging nearly 20 minutes a game, he put up abysmal numbers for a guard of five points and two assists. Britt will, without a doubt, go undrafted. He may not make a summer league squad. His best hopes of playing professional basketball would lie in playing overseas or in the D-League for a few years and hoping he can catch a break on a roster.