Every fan loves a good game of “What If?” What if my team would have signed that star recruit in the offseason? What if coach would have called a timeout with 10 seconds left instead of letting the backup power forward chuck up a three?
For Carolina Basketball this season, Heels fans find themselves saying “What If” more often than not. What if PJ Hairston hadn’t screwed up this summer? What if Reggie Bullock wouldn’t have left this summer? What about if the Tar Heels had pulled in Canadian recruit Andrew Wiggins? Or, a more recent question, what if the Tar Heels could have hit their free throws at a much higher rate this season?
Keeping It Heel is going to take its best shot at some of these very tricky questions over the next couple days in somewhat chronological order. Check back over the course of the next week for more answers to some UNC Basketball “What If?” questions. Sound off in the comments if you have any questions you wanted answered! Also, join the discussion in the comments about our questions. What do you think would have happened? Here we go!
What if James Michael McAdoo declared for the 2013 Draft last spring?
Draft rumors have surrounded North Carolina forward James Michael McAdoo ever since he broke out of his shell in the late part of the 2011-2012 basketball season. In the 2012 NCAA tournament against Kansas, JMM outshined future lottery picks Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller with 15 points on 75% shooting. The Tar Heels lost, but the future looked bright at Carolina with McAdoo leading the way. That is, if he stayed around for his sophomore season.
Many mock drafts for the 2012 NBA Draft had McAdoo going the highest among Barnes, Henson, and Zeller, for his athleticism and scoring potential. But JMM decided not to declare for the draft and elected rather to come back and try to lead the Heels to another Elite Eight appearance. Even in late 2012, McAdoo was a sure fire NBA lottery pick, potentially even a Top-5 selection after what was thought to be a breakout season in 2012-2013. But in his sophomore season, the breakout performances never came, and McAdoo’s draft stock plummeted.
As the 2013 NBA Draft inched closer, the question again came up if North Carolina’s underperforming forward would declare for the draft. By now, McAdoo was a projected late first round pick, so he decided to return for his Junior season once again. The hope was to put things together and improve in year three and try to produce at the high level he showed flashes of against Kansas. But what if McAdoo had left after the 2012-2013 season?
Here are the conditions for this one- We are assuming McAdoo would leave after his sophomore, not freshman season. He easily could have left after either, but we are going to focus on after the sophomore season to project the impact it would have had on this year’s UNC squad. Also, lets assume McAdoo’s decision didn’t affect Reggie Bullock in any way. Had this scenario played out in real life, it’s likely that Reggie would have thought twice about leaving UNC. But in this scenario, let’s assume both Bullock and JMM take off for the NBA. Finally, we will assume everything that played out with PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald this summer happened again and the suspensions for both those guys remained the same.
To begin, we have to find a way to replace JMM’s 30 minutes of production that he has had this season. UNC does have a plethora of young options down low, so McAdoo’s departure doesn’t leave the Heels thin in the frontcourt like Bullock’s departure left the Heels thin in the backcourt. We can distribute the minutes to some of the young guys like Brice Johnson, Joel James, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. Lets give Brice Johnson 10 more minutes per game, Meeks 10 more minutes, and Hicks and James 5 more each. Those extra minutes for the young guys would mean a better offense for Carolina when you look at these numbers.
In this chart, you can see McAdoo is not much better of a player than Johnson and Meeks in terms of advanced numbers. To that point, Johnson and Meeks have also both played only around half as many minutes as JMM. Give Johnson and Meeks more playing time and shots, and you would think they would help the Heels offense score more points and be more efficient.
These numbers show the main knock on McAdoo all throughout his career- efficiency. JMM is talented and shows flashes of greatness, but can’t seem to put it all together in games and average 20 points a night. His efficiency numbers reflect just that- McAdoo’s True Shooting Percentage hovers just below 50%, not a very good mark for an interior post player. (Tyler Hansbrough’s TS% was 61.4% in 2008-09)
There are a couple of things we should consider at before we make the final verdict. For starters, losing McAdoo means the Tar Heels would have lost another upperclassman and leader on the team for 2013-2014. Its really hard to quantify leadership in wins and losses, but we do know leadership is important.
Also, there is no guarantee that any of the young guys like Brice Johnson or Kennedy Meeks would play better and produce more just because they get more playing time. Although he isn’t the most efficient player, McAdoo still averages 14 points and 6 boards a night. Losing that production and leadership from this team would hurt some, but in the end, I think Carolina would end up being better without JMM over the long haul of this season.
If McAdoo would have left, you can make a really good argument that UNC would have been better offensively. Take away JMM- a high usage rate (24.4%), low efficiency player, and put younger, more efficient players in those minutes, and North Carolina might have been better off. How much better in terms of wins is tough, but I don’t think North Carolina would have had any of a worse record if McAdoo had left this offseason. Also, UNC would be in a better place next season and beyond if James Michael McAdoo had left this past spring.
All stats from sports-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Earlier in the series: What If Reggie Bullock Had Stayed?