This article is all pure conjecture. Joel Berry is already heading back to campus. Theo Pinson is almost assuredly following him. We don’t know what Tony Bradley will decide to do, but there is no reason to think that he is locked in on one decision over the other. North Carolina remains in the thick of the battle for Kevin Knox’s services. There is no reason to panic.
But what if the “doomsday” scenario happens? What if the Tar Heels lose Pinson and Bradley, and Knox decides to play his one year of college elsewhere?
Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Seventh Woods would likely slot in at the two. Jalek Felton might also get some playing time. He is a dynamic prospect that has shown exceptional scoring and playmaking capabilities. Kenny Williams would also get playing time after he showed the ability to be an elite wing defender before suffering a season ending injury in February. He has experience in the system. Hopefully, another summer in Chapel Hill will help him be more consistent on the offensive end. We saw reasons to believe in his shooting ability and off-ball movement as he started in place of the injured Theo Pinson.
Brandon Robinson also displayed flashes of offensive ability and confidence to take a shot, though he’ll have to add some muscle. The bigger he gets, the easier it will be for him to hang with the ACC guards on the defensive end and not get pushed off the ball on offense. Freshman Andrew Platek could also get some minutes early as Roy Williams determines his rotation for the season. His shooting prowess could force him into a larger role than first anticipated.
That position is locked up, obviously. It will be interesting to watch how Luke Maye adjusts to being a primary scoring option instead of the 5th option.
Garrison Brooks, an incoming freshman, who had a recruitment with more implausible twists and turns than an episode of the mediocre 24 reboot, would be in line to back up Maye. He has the capability to give UNC some minutes, but it might be too much too soon. The staff is looking at bringing in a grad transfer big man (assuming Bradley leaves) and has a scheduled visit this week with William & Mary grad transfer Jack Whitman.
The key point here is youth and potential (similar to most spots in this hypothetical).
Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley are both intriguing prospects. Huffman is a defensive presence who plays with an edge on offense. As of now, his offensive skill-set is fairly limited to dunking on anyone and everyone in sight. Sterling Manley is a skilled big-man but a complete unknown. He suffered two broken legs in high school and is just now getting healthy. The talent is there, but he will be coming into Carolina even more green than most incoming freshmen. A grad transfer could be a possibility here, and Brooks would look to slide over to the 5 from time to time.
Overall, the roster is quite interesting. So much of this team would be based upon potential and each player’s ability to live up to it. Will Felton perform like a blue-chip recruit on the wing while also showing he can handle back-up point guard duty? How will Carolina adapt to trotting out an inexperienced and unknown front court? If the “worst” happens, the team will depend on guys like Williams and Maye to be able to handle being THE guys on the scouting report of opposing teams.
Does Carolina get to a third Final Four in this situation? Probably not. But do the wheels fall off? I can’t see that happening either. Much will be made about comparisons to the team that followed the last Tar Heel title team. 2010 was a rough season for Carolina fans, but that team was talented. It just was sunk by injuries, absolutely no outside shooting capabilities, and the presence of the Drew family.
If everything goes sideways with the draft decisions, North Carolina will be fine. Health is something out of anyone’s control so no point in worrying about it. There is plenty of shooting on this team between Williams, Platek, Robinson, Felton and Maye. Most importantly, Joel Berry will be back to lead the team.
At the end of the day, it is never wise to doubt Roy Williams and his coaching. He maximizes the talent on his team from the star all the way down to the guys at the end of the bench. I hope Bradley and Pinson come back and Knox picks Carolina blue. But things will be fine if they don’t. The 2018 squad is looking like a team that will be fun, competitive and, ultimately, a tournament contender. Watching guys develop over the course of their career or even just a season is what makes Carolina basketball so fun, anyways. At the end of the day, there still will be a 2017 banner hung up in the rafters. Just enjoy the start of the ride towards the next one.