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Tar Heels in the NBA Playoffs

Once again, the Heels are well represented in the NBA playoffs.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

They aren’t quite as exciting as March Madness, but the NBA playoffs kickoff this weekend. If you don’t happen to be an NBA fan — a perfectly justifiable position — take solace in the fact that UNC will still be well represented in the coming weeks. If you’re still looking to satisfy your basketball needs, I recommend following these seven former Tar Heels.


Ty Lawson
Washington Wizards,

Lawson is a late addition to the Wizards. How late? He just signed with them on Thursday after spending the season in China. This move has been rumored since the All-Star Break, but it’s still surprising to see it come to fruition right before the playoffs. The Wizards are hoping Lawson can provide some point guard insurance for John Wall, who missed 41 games this season with injuries. Lawson last played in the NBA in 2016 for the Sacramento Kings

John Henson
Milwaukee Bucks

Henson started 69 games for the Bucks this season, as they earned a second consecutive appearance in the playoffs. Averaging 8.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, he had his best statistical season since 2013-2014. He also shot a career best 57.2% from the floor. Of course, he remains an effective rim protector with 1.4 blocks per games, which was 10th best in the league.

Tyler Zeller
Milwaukee Bucks

Joining Henson is his college teammate, Tyler Zeller. Zeller began the season with the Brooklyn Nets where he started in 33 games. But as the NBA is prone to do, they traded him to the Bucks where he has appeared in 24 games off the bench. With Thon Maker, Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and John Henson all seeing time at the forward and/or center position, the Bucks’ front court is crowded with playmakers vying for playing time. However, Zeller has still put up 5.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in just 16.9 minutes. He’ll be a valuable asset if the Bucks hope to upset the Boston Celtics.

Wayne Ellington
Miami Heat

The Most Outstanding Player of the 2009 NCAA Tournament just finished his most successful season as a pro. Though he’s just averaging 11.2 points off the bench, Ellington has finally become the consistent deep threat that Tar Heel fans remember. More importantly, he has gotten better as the season has continued. In the final regular season game, Ellington turned in a season best performance with 32 points on 8-12 shooting from three. He broke the Miami Heat’s single season record for most three-pointers made, finishing with 227.


Danny Green
San Antonio Spurs

With apologies to Vince Carter, Green is arguably the most recognizable and successful Tar Heel in the league. This season has not met the standard of recent Spurs teams, though that’s largely due to injuries to key players, most notably Kawhi Leonard. That has not had a noticeable impact on Green’s performance, who continues to be a mainstay in the Spurs’ lineup. With 60 starts in 70 appearances this season, Green averaged 8.6 points and hit 36.5% of this three-point attempts. Also averaging 1 steal and 1.1 blocks per game he has maintained his value as a “Three and D” perimeter player.

Raymond Felton
Oklahoma City Thunder

In his 13th season in the league, Felton’s best days are clearly behind him. That hasn’t stopped him from being a valuable back-up to All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. In just 16.6 minutes, the point guard is giving the Thunder 6.9 points and 2.5 assists per game. Certainly not gaudy numbers, but with Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George on the court, Felton has seamlessly transitioned into the perfect veteran point guard. Accepting this role will allow Felton to play in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

Ed Davis
Portland Trail Blazers

Davis appeared in 78 games for the Trail Blazers, who finished as the 3 seed in the ultra competitive Western Conference. Another former Tar Heel who has carved out a role as a sparkplug off the bench, Davis is averaging 5.3 points and 7.4 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game. It has been an ecouraging bounce back for Davis, who missed almost half of last season with injuries. However, a rolled ankle caused Davis to miss 4 games in the last month, and it had a noticeable impact on the Trail Blazers’ defense. Hopefully he heals up in time to contribute in the first round.

The first round kicks off today and tomorrow, and all will determine a winner in a best-of-seven series. It should be noted that of the seven Tar Heels in the playoffs, six of them won a National Championship at UNC. Felton won his in 2005. Ellington, Lawson, Davis, Zeller and Green helped lead that dominant 2009 over Michigan State. We can all still blame Creighton for denying Henson his opportunity (and a second title for Zeller) in 2012.

Best of luck to all the Tar Heels.