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UNC Basketball: Tar Heels in the NBA update

Just over a month into the season, let’s see how the Carolina alums are doing.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

With a return to the fun, fast-paced Carolina basketball that we haven’t seen in some time, it feels like a good time to appreciate some of those who contributed to it. Back in late October, our own Jack Morris expressed expectations for former Tar Heel players as they were tipping off the NBA season. Now over a month into the season, let’s take a look at how those guys are doing.

Cole Anthony (Orlando Magic):

Although he hasn’t cracked the starting lineup, Anthony is third on the Magic in scoring with 14.9 points per game, roughly two more than his average last year. He’s shooting 43.9% from the field and a respectable 37.5% from three while adding 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game.

Anthony is a dynamic scorer and playmaker, and seems to be continuing his progression of becoming more reliable and efficient with each season. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks through as a starting point guard. For now, he serves as the most vital bench piece for a Magic team that is currently second in the Eastern Conference.

Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings):

Barnes has started all 18 games for the Kings, who finished third in the West last year before falling in the first round to his former team (the Warriors) in a seven-game series. He’s currently averaging 12.4 points, 1.6 assists, and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 47.6% from the floor and 37.6% from three. He’s also an impressive 84.4% from the charity stripe.

At this point in his career, Barnes’ role basically is what it is. That doesn’t mean he can’t still make a big impact on a team with high hopes for this season and beyond. The Kings have a stable of young guys who continue to improve. Having a steady veteran presence around like Barnes has taken some pressure off those dudes and allowed them to grow. Barnes could be a key factor in whether or not this group takes the next step in the postseason.

Reggie Bullock (Houston Rockets):

Unfortunately, Bullock has not experienced much of a legitimate role with this Houston team. At just 9.5 minutes and 1.5 points per game, he’s been buried towards the bottom of the roster. Still, given his experience as an 11-year veteran, Bullock can find ways to impact and help develop this young Rockets squad.

Danny Green (Philadelphia 76ers*):

It has been a roller coaster for Green over the past few years. After battling injuries and a whirlwind that saw him playing for three different teams last season, Green got an opportunity to reunite with the 76ers, where he felt there was unfinished business. However, when the team decided to deal James Harden to the Clippers, they ended up with an extra player in the trade, and Green was cut as a result.

Green still has a solid relationship with the 76ers organization and a return to the team is not out of the question if a roster spot opens up.

Cameron Johnson (Brooklyn Nets):

Since being traded to the Brooklyn Nets, Johnson has been given a bigger role. This year is no different as he’s started every game he’s been available and is the team’s third-leading scorer with 15.2 a game. Johnson is also averaging 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 45.2% from the floor and 36.6% from deep.

Johnson’s three-point efficiency continues to suffer a bit, likely due to the increased responsibility. However, when 37% is the low end of what you’re capable of, it tells you the kind of shooter he is. With very little experience around him, Johnson will try to help propel a Nets team that’s still figuring itself out.

Nassir Little (Phoenix Suns):

After a promising stint with the Trail Blazers, Little has seen his role diminish a bit in his first season with the Suns. He’s averaging just 15.1 minutes and 5.7 points per game while shooting 51% from the field and 33% from three. He’s also shooting 85.7% from the free throw line.

Despite the dip in usage, Little currently has career best efficiencies in terms of field goals and free throws, a testament to his hard work and continued improvement as a shot-maker. The offensive firepower of the Suns should take some pressure off Little and allow him to keep developing his game and hopefully become a significant part of a team with high postseason aspirations.

Day’Ron Sharpe (Brooklyn Nets):

Sharpe continues to see an increased role in his third season with the Nets, notching a career-best 15.3 minutes per game. He has been effective with those minutes, averaging 6.6 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 56% from the floor.

Sharpe’s development is something to watch as he continues to find ways to make an impact while on the court. Given his ability and the youth of this roster, Sharpe could be a candidate to break out in the near future.

Coby White (Chicago Bulls):

In his fifth season with the Bulls, White has started every game so far, maintaining an impact as a scorer and playmaker. He’s averaging 14.2 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 41.6% from the field and 38.2% from three.

Not only has White been elevated to the starting lineup, but he could have even more on his plate as rumors intensify in regards to trading away Zach LaVine. If and when that happens, White could be asked to do even more offensively. It will be interesting to see how he handles that expanded role.

Leaky Black (Charlotte Hornets):

Unsurprisingly, Black has not gotten many significant minutes for the Hornets in his first NBA season. He’s appeared in just four games and has taken just five shots on the year. Still, given his length and defensive prowess, don’t be surprised if Black eventually starts making his presence felt one way or another.