Coming into the season North Carolina sophomore power forward James Michael McAdoo was heralded as a preseason All-American and was even looked at as a potential National Player of the Year candidate. He was supposed to dominate, be the presence inside the post that Carolina that would help people forget about the loss of John Henson and Tyler Zeller.
McAdoo has played well this year to the tune of 15 points and 8.2 rebounds per game at times he has looked dominate but his play has not been consistent enough to live up to his preseason expectations. In the three losses the Tar Heels have suffered this season McAdoo has scored 10 points twice with a high of 14 with only one strong showing on the boards. McAdoo doesn’t demand the ball enough and when he gets it he has a tendency to play too fast and out of control at times.
Reggie Bullock is the only other candidate in my mind to be mentioned as potentially the Tar Heels best player. Others who have produced good numbers like PJ Hairston, Leslie McDonald and Brice Johnson haven’t played enough to be considered. Dexter Strickland has played well and has exceeded expectations when he takes over at the point but hasn’t regained enough of his quickness or lateral movement yet and therefore isn’t quite the defender he used to be and offensively he’s the least capable in terms of scoring of the Heels top seven players in the rotation.
Bullock is the teams second leading scorer at 13.1 points per game and is probably the one player who has given consistent effort and shown heart in every contest this season. Bullock is also finally starting to make good on his promise as a three point shooter this season with a 47.5% average from beyond the arc. He’s doing a great job on the boards at 5.7 rebounds per game which ranks him behind only McAdoo in both points and rebounds and is third on the team at 3.2 assists per game.
Bullock emerged as the teams top perimeter defender last season when Strickland was lost for the year with an ACL injury but thus far this season hasn’t had the same type of success. He is still the teams second best overall defender on a weak defensive team and even when he is not scoring his defense and rebounding keep him on the court.
One aspect of Bullocks game that has not improved is his inability to create his own offense in the half court, something the Tar Heels so desperately need more of. Bullock is many things, but he’s not a play maker, he moves well without the ball and has a great jump shot but he needs to be set up by another player to get off a good shot. UNC lacks play makers who can penetrate and score or set up teammates by drawing in the attention of the defense and it would have been nice if Bullock could have expanded on that part of his game this season. For all that he is not, Bullock is one heck of a player and one that might have the most confidence from his head coach Roy Williams.
Just like he was in the preseason, McAdoo is still the best option and the best player for Carolina. His raw ability and athleticism to get off his shot whenever he wants in the half court separates him from the rest of the roster. Sure Carolina is very talented and could still go a long way this season but they don’t have anybody else with near as much potential or anybody that poses nearly as much of a threat to the opposition as James Michael McAdoo.