North Carolina is no stranger to losing players early to the NBA Draft, just last season the Tar Heels lost four of their best players when John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes decided to put their names in the hat and join Tyler Zeller in the draft. Given the teams struggles this season the early expectation was that the Heels wouldn’t face that heading into next season but don’t be so sure.
James Michael McAdoo flirted with leaving early after his freshman season following a strong showing in March but chose to stay for his sophomore campaign. McAdoo was a preseason All-American and was looked at as a draft formality following this season and a projected lottery pick. McAdoo has played well at times but hasn’t lived up to those lofty expectations and as result as seen his draft stock plummet.
Depending on how McAdoo performs the rest of the season will likely determine whether or not he decides to go pro after this season but it remains unlikely that he sticks around for his junior season in Chapel Hill. The NBA is a league that drafts largely on potential and given the growth of the Developmental league teams are becoming more comfortable with utilizing draft picks as future assets while allowing them to grow in the leagues minor league system. McAdoo oozes potential and as the saying goes it only takes on GM to buy into that potential, I expect him to go somewhere in the top 15 despite his inconsistency this season.
Two other names on the Tar Heels roster have emerged as potential draft candidates, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston. Bullock, the teams second leading scorer is one of the top three point shooters in the nation and a capable defender with a very unselfish style of play. He’s also a new father and the financial pressures of taking care of a child are going to make it tough to pass up the NBA.
Hairston is now receiving the playing time and exposure that could drastically increase his draft stock. Despite limited playing time P.J. has been the teams third leading scorer all season long and has exploded since being inserted into the starting lineup. If Hairston can continue to play at the high level he has shown of late, his draft stock could skyrocket to the point that he is among the top three shooting guards in the draft.
All three players, especially Hairston and Bullock also have great reasons to return to Chapel Hill. McAdoo needs to develop a back to the basket game and learn to slow the game down on the offensive end and become a better defender. Bullock needs to drastically improve his ball handling. Hairston needs to improve his defensive game, shot selection and incorporate the dribble penetration into his game a lot more.
Surveying the massive amounts of Mock Drafts all over the internet and you will find that McAdoo is projected to go anywhere from 13-25 right now. Some Mocks have Bullock in the bottom half of the first round, some have him going undrafted. As for Hairston, most don’t even list him with such a small sample size of what he can do with increased playing time.
If all three were to leave Carolina for the NBA the effects would be devastating. The roster is prepared to lose McAdoo with Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks in line at the power forward position next season. The losses of Bullock and Hairston would gut the roster of the teams current strength the perimeter. UNC will already lose Dexter Strickland who graduates after this season and without any perimeter players signed depth would be a major concern.