Inspiration for a good debate can come from a lot of places. Sometimes, it is a nagging question that percolates through the off-season. Reader comments provide great suggestions for a topic. This week, the light bulb went off while recording a Between the Banners podcast with Chad Floyd.
The primary podcast question was whether Carolina won or lost the NBA Draft. Despite the potential mixed results of a rising Coby White, falling Nassir Little, and surprising lottery pick Cameron Johnson, my opinion is that overall the Heels should view the event as a win. During that conversation, however, the question arose as to whether Carolina should have been more successful on the year given three first-round draft picks.
Over two months ago, The Debate questioned whether the 2018-19 season was a success. This is not a rehashing of that piece. This is a complete what-if, what could’ve been, what happened piece.
The Debate for the week of July 1: Should the results on the basketball court have been even better given the draft results?
Point: The season should have been better.
Coach Roy Williams has now had five years at North Carolina with multiple first round NBA Draft picks. A National Championship in 2005 was immediately followed by four first-round picks (Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton, Sean May, and Rashad McCants). The 2009 National Championship preceded three first round picks (Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and Wayne Ellington. Additionally, Danny Green was selected in the second round). The 2012 Tar Heels were one of the two most talented teams in the country. A very unfortunate wrist injury to point guard and first-round pick Kendall Marshall prematurely ended the season. Marshall was one of four first rounders in 2012, joined by Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller. Another National Championship in 2017 led to two first-round picks (Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley).
For those keeping score at home, that means three of the five multi-first-round pick seasons were National Championships. The fourth was destined for a championship run. Then there was 2018-19.
It was certainly a very good year, but with so much NBA ready talent on the team, this should have been a squad that was immune to a hot shooting team. In the end, this great scoring Tar Heel team could not keep up on the scoreboard. A Sweet Sixteen exit was simply not good enough.
Counterpoint: The draft does not cast a shadow on the season.
Having a great night at the NBA Draft does not mean that a team should have been better. Although certainly related tangentially, quality college players and great teams do not necessarily translate to the professional level. The games are just different. It is the reason why fans can love college basketball and despise the professional game, or vice versa.
It frankly is the same concept from a different vantage point as college recruiting. Championships are not awarded in June or August when the recruiting classes are completed. I would certainly welcome an in-depth analysis on whether college recruiting rankings are based more on probable success in college or in the NBA. I think it tends to be the latter, which is a mistake.
Although not quite the same, if the 2012 team gets a pass because of Kendall Marshall’s injury, then 2019 gets a pass for the flu. The team that played against Auburn was clearly not at full strength. Little may have been the most affected, but he was certainly not alone. Just as losing the starting point guard in Roy Williams’ system is devastating, so is losing the team’s legs due to illness.
The professional game is not the same as college. Additionally, the draft is just a projection of who teams think will be successful, versus the certainty of the just completed college season. These are different events and while the season may impact draft stock, the draft has no impact on a fan’s view of the season.
Time for you to decide! Do the results of the NBA draft affect the perspective on the season? If so, is the perception negative because of three first round picks?
As always, readers are encouraged to join in through the comments and point out what we got right, what we got wrong, and what we never thought of. Also, please feel free to provide suggestions for future topics so we can cover what interests readers and what information is needed to ensure victory when debating slow-witted friends who don’t read the articles!