Oddly the two best games the North Carolina Tar Heels have played this season has been when a perimeter player has missed the game due to injury. Against UNLV Reggie Bullock who has been the teams most consistent player this season missed the game due to a concussion and the Heels defeated the then 20th ranked Runnin’ Rebels. Saturday against Florida State in Tallahassee with their backs against the wall Leslie McDonald sat out with a knee injury and UNC played a very efficient offensive game and were able to overcome their defensive woes to pull out the victory.
It’s no secret the strength of the Tar Heels is their depth on the perimeter with five good players in Bullock, McDonald, Dexter Strickland, P.J. Hairston and J.P. Tokoto. But sometimes a gift is also a curse and it’s not easy for a coach to blend five players into two positions, keeping everybody happy and in rhythm. It’s because of this that I have a growing feeling that the team may be better when one of these players are out of the lineup. To many this may sound absurd but hang with me here. No I’m not suggesting this is a better team without Bullock or McDonald or anyone of the players I listed above. But how can one deny that with less players to distribute minutes its easier for those that remain in the rotation to get into a comfortable rhythm on the court.
I’ve suggest an easy solution to this problem is by taking Strickland out of the perimeter rotation and simply having him come off the bench as the reserve point guard and open up more minutes for more capable scorers, namely Hairston in the lineup. As the season wears on it’s becoming more obvious to me that Roy isn’t listening to my suggestions and at this point I doubt he will change his lineups unless someone is injured.
P.J. Hairston has had two of his three best career games when given the minutes of injured players. He scored 15 points, with 4 steals in his first career start against UNLV and a career high 23 points Saturday against FSU.
With McDonald out Hairston, Strickland and Bullock all played 25+ minutes and Roy finally played Bullock and Hairston together for a significant amount of time. Shooters are rhythm players, they need time on the court to get into their zone, Bullock, Hairston and McDonald all fit into that category.
If Roy can’t find a way to get these players the time they need on the floor by either shifting Stricklands role or going with a small lineup more often the team will inevitably suffer as we’ve seen all season long.