Leslie McDonald has been suspended for what Roy Williams calls not meeting the requirements of a student athlete. Who knows what that means and frankly I really don’t care all that much. What we’re here to talk about today is the impact not having McDonald in the rotation can do to the Tar Heels. You might be surprised but I think some positives exist.
First a disclosure, I love Leslie McDonald, I think he has NBA potential, UNC missed him a lot last season and when he hits his stride (which he has yet to do this season) he can be a big time player for North Carolina. Now that that’s out of the way another disclosure (yes another one) I love Roy Williams, I’m just not always sold on how he puts together his starting lineups and his rotations. Carolina is very deep on the perimeter this year and it’s been maddening at times for me to watch how Roy has handled that depth in his substitution patters.
It’s obvious to me that it’s been difficult for players to get into a rhythm and gain familiarity with their teammates with such active and inconsistent substitution patters and roles that change from game to game. So no, I don’t think missing one perimeter player is a big deal and may actually help this team which is full of young players a little bit in the short term. Now don’t get me wrong here, UNC will need Leslie McDonald before the season is up. We will see games in which his scoring is needed, when P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock both aren’t connecting with their outside shot and McDonald is needed to stretch the floor, it will happen. But for right now, these three games it’s not all that bad.
Roy has given Hairston more playing time lately, starter minutes you can call it without actually starting him (although I continue to contend that would be better for the team if he was inserted into the lineup and Dexter Strickland became the sixth man) and many have credited coach for realizing that Hairston deserves these minutes, while I don’t disagree with that, part of me wonders if Hairstons increased minutes are partly due to not having McDonald available in the rotation, I guess we’ll never know, at least we won’t have a chance to know for the next three games.
It’s hard for any coach, even a hall of fame coach like Roy Williams to find consistent rotations for five very good perimeter players, three of which can really shoot the basketball, having one less player to worry about distributing minutes to has been a good thing so far in my view. Again, Roy and the Tar Heels will need McDonald sooner or later, but right now it’s been fun watching Hairston and Bullock both play big time minutes while developing Tokoto. Hopefully by the time McDonald returns on February 2nd against Virginia Tech coach will have found a niche in the rotation and a way not to disturb it by reinserting McDonald after what will be a six game absence.