UNC Basketball: Dexter Strickland is the Perfect 6th Man


Dexter Strickland has been in the starting lineup for the North Carolina Tar Heels for the majority of his duration in Chapel Hill.  This season, like last year, he will have to serve a dual role at both guard positions.  Head coach Roy Williams recently revealed that he expects incoming freshman Marcus Paige to take over the starting point guard role for the departed Kendall Marshall.

Jan, 10, 2012; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Dexter Strickland (1) dribbles in the second half. the Tar Heels defeated the Hurricanes 73-56 at the Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Before his pre-season, season ending injury last year, Williams indicated that Leslie McDonald was slated to be Strickland’s chief competition for the starting spot at shooting guard. With McDonald returning this year and a ton of depth at the wing positions that also includes Reggie Bullock, PJ Hairston and freshman JP Tokoto, Strickland would serve the Tar Heels the best as a sixth man his senior season.

Call me a pessimist or just a paranoid observer, but I don’t like the thought of having Strickland fill two major roles this year as a starting SG and the primary backup PG.  The dual responsibilities just seems unnecessary this season especially given the amount of depth this team has on the perimeter.

I would like to see McDonald and Hairston compete with one another for the starting SG spot with Bullock likely slated to slide to Harrison Barnes’ vacated small forward spot.  Strickland could be very dangerous off the bench while still playing a very important role.  As talented as Paige is, it’s anybody’s guess how quickly he will adapt to the college level.  And as good as Bullock played on the defensive end, can he continue his evolution and become reliable as the teams best perimeter defender?

We can speculate all day and night about those two questions, the fact is, nobody knows the answers and we won’t until we see how this team plays on the court this upcoming season.  Starting the game with Strickland off the bench allows Roy to assess each game individually and allow him to plug Dex into the spot most needed.

It’s likely that both roles he plays, top perimeter defender and veteran backup PG will be individually important on different nights.  Paige is extremely talented, some nights he’ll be fine, hopefully that holds true on most nights, but it’s very unlikely it will be that way every night.  When he struggles or is rattled by a scheme he hasn’t seen before, Strickland would play the role of steady vet at the point on those nights.

It’s also likely that Bullock will continue to evolve as an all around player and it’s probably safe to assume his defense will continue to improve and on most nights, he will be fine as the top perimeter defender on the floor for Carolina.  When he’s not, or when UNC faces teams with multiple talented perimeter players, then can lean on Strickland as the defensive stopper.

Interchangeable roles that vary from game to game is easier to manage when you have a clear vision of your goal heading into battle.  Constantly switching gears is very hard, I’m not saying that Strickland’s minutes need to be cut or his role diminished in any way.  In all likelihood, he will be one of the most important players on the roster and will be needed to play as much or more than most players on the roster.  But Roy needs to be smart about his role, and the roles of each and every player on a stacked perimeter group.  Both in order to try and continue each players growth and happiness on the team in order to achieve optimal results out of each while developing each player to the fullest.