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UNC Basketball: Three Things Learned from the NBA Summer League

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Now that the two-week regular season has come to a close, let’s take a look back and some of the Tar Heel highlights.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The regular season of the NBA Summer League is officially over. Today, teams will continue to play in consolation games, but the best eight teams will battle in the Summer League playoffs to see who will become champion. Out of the Tar Heels alumni, only Theo Pinson will have the pleasure of playing in the playoffs, but Coby White, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, and Tony Bradley will still see action.

With things winding down before the teams prepare internally for the regular season, it’s worth taking a look back to see what we learned from the past couple of weeks. There was a lot of good, bad, and ugly that transpired as far as Tar Heels go, but we will focus on the three biggest storylines coming out of the Summer League. Let’s begin.

Coby White was the best lottery pick, but still needs time

The Chicago Bulls have been a very anxiety-inducing team to follow for the past couple of years. From the weird trades for older players like Dwyane Wade, to the ill-advised trading of Jimmy Butler, the Bulls were basically a complete catastrophe as far as the front office is concerned...except in the NBA Draft. For the past couple of years, they have picked up names like Lauri Markannen, Wendell Carter Jr. (yes I know he’s a Duke player, but hey, I’m being truthful), and Chandler Hutchinson. This year, they picked up the first Tar Heel that they’ve drafted in the first round since Michael Jordan, and so far, it looks like their decision will pay off.

Coby White used his opportunity in the NBA Summer League to show why he was a top-10 lottery pick. He showed flashes of scoring dominance, made jaw-dropping plays for both himself and his teammates, was solid on defense, and even got to the boards a good amount for a guard. However, there is still room for White to grow, as he is still plagued by turnover issues and questionable decision making. Despite the issues, White will have an opportunity to battle for the starting point guard spot for the Bulls. The problem is, however, the depth chart got deeper since the Summer League started.

As of right now, the Bulls opted to keep former Providence guard Kris Dunn, and acquired Tomas Satoransky via a trade with the Washington Wizards. If things were to stand as they are currently, it’s expected that Satoransky will be the starting point guard with Dunn being the first backup off the bench. However, there are faint whispers coming from Bulls media that Kris Dunn could very well get traded, despite what those within the organization have said. Coby could see more minutes should this trade take place, but it all depends on who the Bulls trade for. If nothing else, he could end up being a viable backup for Zach LaVine, but basically the summary of White’s situation is that his rookie year is perhaps looking more foggy in terms of playing time than it did the night he was drafted.

Tony Bradley shows that he’s ready for the big leagues

Following his exodus from UNC after the Tar Heels won the national championship, Tony Bradley received mixed opinions about whether or not he should’ve stayed in Chapel Hill just a while longer. It’s easy to go back and forth about whether or not he should’ve stayed, but one thing is for sure: he, at the very least, belongs in the conversation of holding a roster spot for the Utah Jazz after his dominant performances this summer.

In the first three games of the Summer League, Bradley averaged 20 points, 15.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. From there, he continued to log double-doubles in almost every game he played in, and capped off the “regular season” with a 23-point, 13-rebound performance against the Houston Rockets.

Bradley’s dominance was hard to ignore by the Jazz fanbase, but whether or not it is enough for the organization may be a whole other story. He still hasn’t shown a great deal of versatility on offense, but his defensive ability, rebounding, and ability to get to the rim could be enough to sway them into finding a spot for him on their roster. The absence of Derrick Favors definitely helps his case, but it could be that they look elsewhere for their depth in the paint as well. Let’s hope that he did enough to land on a roster because the Jazz could use some luck with players that they drafted from North Carolina schools.

Nassir Little still has some weirdly bad luck

Over the course of our lives we’ve all met people that have the weirdest streaks of bad luck. It’s quite inevitable, and also it’s one of the weirdest, most unexplainable phenomenons out there. As far as the Tar Heels are concerned, no string of bad luck could possibly be weirder than that of Nassir Little’s, as he just can’t seem to catch a break. Now that he’s in the NBA, things really haven’t changed much in that department.

After only four minutes of play earlier this week against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Little suffered an elbow injury and had to leave the game. His injury was enough to shut him down for the rest of the Summer League, which means that it may be the last time that we hear his name in any significant fashion for a good while. For those who don’t know, the Portland Trailblazers do not have a G-League team, and so players that would normally enter that system stay with the Blazers, but in non-active roles. We all love to see Tar Heels enter action as early as possible, but the reality is that it may be at least a year before we hear Little’s name called for this playoff-contending team.

Little’s injury was the icing on the cake that was his lackluster Summer League performance. He averaged 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in the games that he participated in, further displaying that he is a raw talent despite having a high ceiling. Once Little figures out how to put it all together he has all the potential in the world to be a really good NBA player. Right now, however, he may have to focus on finding out what he has to do to get rid of all of the awful luck that has plagued him.