The NBA Draft is roughly 24 hours away, and players are getting ready to find out what is in store for their future as professional athletes. We all know the drill: there are players that have been projected as first-round picks since last summer, while there is a lot of uncertainty about what events will transpire in the second round. For the first time in a couple of years, players coming out of the University of North Carolina will find themselves dealing with the latter, despite maybe one of them being a better-suited player for the NBA than some think.
Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson have spent the past month or so working out for various teams around the NBA. Only Theo was invited to the NBA Draft Combine, so these workouts are really the only opportunity that Berry has had to show scouts that he deserves of being drafted. Theo has been landing invite after invite from teams as well, and just finished working out for the Indiana Pacers yesterday. These two players definitely have varied ceilings from one another, and that divide I feel like is worth discussing before the big event tomorrow. So let’s take a look at each player, what the chances are of them being drafted, as well as discuss what their ceilings and floors are with the NBA.
Joel Berry II
Joel Berry II was undoubtedly a great college player during his time at UNC. His meteoric rise starting in the post-season during his sophomore year took him from a backup point guard trying to get his legs under him in Roy Williams’ system, to an ACC Tournament MVP, Final Four MOP, first and second-team All-ACC player, and a third-team All-American as voted on by the NABC. Berry was the leader of the Tar Heels two years in a row, leading by example with fearless play, toughness, and his extreme hate for losing (ask his hand about how much he hates losing).
When it comes to the NBA, things are a bit more hazy in terms of what you can expect from Berry. He is an undersized-by-NBA-standards point guard who plays good defense, and on the offensive end he has a dead-eye from the perimeter. The problems that teams could run into drafting him is that yes, he is undersized, and he doesn’t have the traits that would make him stand out more that the Steph Currys of the world have. He’s a good but not great passer, he’s a good but not great scorer, and his ball-handling skills for a point guard aren’t anything to get overly excited about. To clarify the point about his scoring abilities: successful NBA point guards are able to create their own shots often, and that’s something that Joel didn’t do much of at UNC. He got his opportunities, sure, but if you follow the NBA as closely as I do, you know exactly what I mean.
So then why draft him at all? The answer is the intangibles. Joel Berry has a lot of heart and determination, and that could translate into him doing things in the NBA that maybe nobody expected. It’s not an easy thing to do, and Marcus Paige is a great recent example of that. However, there’s players like J.J. Barea, Jeremy Lin, and Ben Wallace that managed to not only make a name for themselves, but found a certain level of stardom in the Association. It’s very possible that Joel could be a surprise pick near the end of the second round, but the question is which team needs a guy like him that badly. That’s a question that I just do not have the answer to.
Prediction: Joel Berry goes undrafted, but gets picked up by (insert team here) to play in the Summer League. He will likely spend the 2018-19 season in the NBA G-League unless he makes the business decision to make money overseas.
Ceiling: Should Joel choose to play in the G-League, he will likely end up with a two-way contract with an NBA team within the first few years of his career. From there he could find his way onto a team’s bench, but it’s hard to imagine that he will be utilized much outside of injury-type situations.
Floor: Joel Berry could make a good career for himself overseas. There have been a number of UNC players that have done it over the years, and some have been very successful. The great thing about that option, is that Berry could very well find himself back in the NBA’s system after he makes some better money elsewhere (because the G-League still pays peanuts on a normal contract). He also very well could stay overseas, but we will have to wait until after Thursday to see what happens first.
Let’s just get this out of the way: Theophilus Alphonso Pinson is an NBA player. He has the size, the creativity, the defensive skills, and the ceiling that isn’t much different from a lot of the players that are currently in the league. Sure, we can talk all day about how Theo’s jump shot may effect his channces of being drafted, but let’s focus on what makes him an excellent second-round draft pick and why it would be foolish for a team not to at least sign him to a two-way contract.
Theo Pinson is 6’6 but is capable of playing like a point guard. The Golden State Warriors era of the NBA has created a lot of positionless players, with maybe the best example on the planet being LeBron James. James is a small/power forward, but can basically play any position on the floor. Quite an extreme example, yes, but the point is that Theo fits into that need for versatility. Theo may be a bit too small frame-wise to bang at the center spot (emphasis on maybe, he gave Marvin Bagley III fits just fine) in the NBA, but he can play/guard the other four positions with little to no trouble. His vision on the court has always been one of his greatest strengths, as well as his ability to create plays. Pinson didn’t display athleticism on a consistent level at UNC, but it is something that is there nonetheless.
NBA scouts have taken notice of what Pinson is able to do as well. After getting invited to the NBA Draft Combine at the 11th hour, and from there has landed numerous workouts with teams around the league. It is safe to say that at this stage, he is a favorite to sneak his way into the bottom of the second round but it largely depends on the needs of the teams that he’s worked out for.
Prediction: Theo Pinson gets drafted within the final five picks of the NBA Draft, and it will likely be a team in the Western Conference. He is the type of hybrid player that I could see a team recruiting in order to deal with Golden State, but he would be drafted as a developmental player all the same. Unless, of course, he ends up on a team like the Sacramento Kings, who are already in rebuild mode and have a very young roster that Theo can plug into and have a somewhat immediate impact on.
Ceiling: If Theo has found a consistent jump shot this summer and manages to keep it that way throughout the summer league, I fully expect him to find regular minutes coming off of the bench for (insert team here). I think he has too many of the tools that are valued in the NBA right now for him not to see time on the court as long as he can produce, and it’s something he is more than capable of doing now that he is out of school and can focus solely on perfecting his game.
Floor: At worst, I see Theo landing a two-way contract and spending a large part of his career bouncing back and forth between the NBA and the G-League. I think it doesn’t make a great deal of sense for him to go overseas, unless it’s for the money like I mentioned with Joel. The other crucial thing about Theo that his career will depend on is his health — he spent two and a half years of his college career injured, and so his body has to hold up if he wants to find any kind of solid footing in professional basketball.
What do you think will happen during the draft tomorrow? Do you think either player will be drafted? Also, what do you think will become of Joel and Theo’s futures as professional players? Let us know in the comments below.