Dec 8, 2012 Chapel Hill, NC, USA. North Carolina Tar Heels guard Leslie McDonald shoots during the first half at the Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC Basketball: What the Absence of Leslie McDonald Means to the Tar Heels

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.

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Tags: North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Al Lane

    This article is nonsense..

    1. There are NO positives in not having a fine player available, maybe especially when his absence is because of off-court issues.

    2. “But for right now, these three games it’s not all that bad.” Is that joke, or did I miss out on the schedule change for Saturday … are we playing Elon instead of NC State in a critical ACC game ?

    3. “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 … having one less player to worry about distributing minutes to has been a good thing so far in my view.” What ? You think we need to dumb things down so Roy can handle the intricacies of coaching the team ? I, too, question some of Roy’s substitutions, but unlike Matt Hamm I don’t think the problem is Roy is not smart enough to handle a team of good players.

    4. “Hopefully by the time McDonald returns on February 2nd against Virginia Tech …” we haven’t lost two more road games at NC State and Boston College and be in a deeper ACC hole.

    5. “You might be surprised but I think some positives exist [from McDonald being suspended]….” No, Matt, having also read many of your other analyses, I am not surprised in the least that you think this is a positive thing.

    • Keeping_It_Heel

      1. agree most of the time
      2. nope, have you watched the last 3 games w/o him?
      3. are u okay with Roy playing a guy like P.J. Hairston far less mins than he deserves? I love Roy but I do not agree with his rotations and lineups this season by any means and yes I think one less player to distribute the mins to has been a good thing. In case you didn’t notice we’ve been w/o Leslie for 3 games already and oh by the way won all 3 games.
      4. see #3
      5. you shouldn’t be, as I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of Roy’s rotations this season whatsoever. Leslie has been extremely inconsistent. With him out it has given P.J. and J.P. more playing time and they have done well with it.

      • Al Lane

        MATT: I did watch the “3 games [UNC won] w/h. Did you happen to watch the NC State game ??? Without him ? Well, of course you did … I just read your column about it … including the part where you say that the NC State results just proves we have to have McDonald as a key part of our rotation. LOL

        I won’t even comment on the rest of your silly response.

        • Keeping_It_Heel

          Al: we didn’t lose that game because we didn’t have Leslie McDonald. We lost because we didn’t hustle back on D and gave up way too many transition buckets. The 2nd reason is the fact that we didn’t play our best players. No reason PJ got 17 mins, Brice and Joel 10 and 13 with Simmons at 15 and Luke Davis’ 5 mins stint including something like 6 TO’s, 3 of which Davis committed.

          Yes I did say when McDonald comes back he should be apart of a shorter rotation. I think that’s obvious. In this post I was simply pointing out that due to Roy’s refusal to shorten his rotation the possibility exists that w/o one key player like McDonald the players may have an easier time getting comfortable on the court.

          The bottom line and we can disagree here is that Roy is not handling the rotations correctly. He’s starting 2 offensively inept players and giving minutes to players who don’t deserve them while sitting his better guys period.