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UNC Basketball: Theo Pinson’s shooting has become sneakily important

Numbers wise, it may not be a massive jump, but Pinson’s improved shooting numbers is helping the Tar Heels.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Theo Pinson’s return from injury was obviously a huge boost to North Carolina. In addition to the emotional boost he provides, Pinson is an excellent defender, a great passer, and generally fills up the box score in a couple different categories.

The one part of his game that hasn’t always been there has been his scoring. Pinson’s game isn’t scoring 15-20 points per game, or shooting 40% from three. He hasn’t drastically improved his averages, but what he has improved have made a sneakily big difference on the offensive end.

In his ten games this season, Pinson has averaged 7.7 points per game. He’s shooting 33% from three, and 50% in general. All three are up from either of his first two seasons at Carolina.

Obviously scoring more points and shooting a better percentage is a good thing, because it equates to more points for the team. When you look at the games where Pinson has played best, you can see where the improved shooting has come in handy.

In his third game back from injury, Pinson scored 12 points against Florida State. He went 3-5 from the field, knocked down a three, and got to the free throw line several quite a bit, going 5-6. North Carolina won by 13.

Against Boston College and NC State, he scored 11 and 12, going a combined 9-11 in the two games. In the last two games against Virginia and Louisville, he’s hit three of five shots from three point range, as UNC won games against two teams both ranked in the top 15.

It’s not just the extra points he’s providing, it also helps with floor spacing. It’s no coincidence that Kennedy Meeks has had a good game in almost all of the above mentioned games. Even in the one where Meeks didn’t (against Florida State), that was one where Isaiah Hicks went for 22 points.

All of those games are also ones where UNC won the rebounding battle. Having to close out on a more reliable Pinson just opens up more space.

North Carolina has only lost one game in which Pinson has played: Duke. In that game, Pinson scored just six points. He went 3-9 from the field, and did not take a shot from three. Neither of UNC’s starting bigs finished in double digits in points, and Carolina lost the rebounding battle.

Theo Pinson is not going to transform into a high volume scorer, at least probably not this season. He shouldn’t be taking 10 shots a game. However, his shooting is proving to be a decently valuable asset. The improvement may not seem giant on the surface, but it’s helping.