NBA Draft: Is JP Tokoto Worth a Selection?


Probably the biggest surprise of the offseason for UNC Basketball was the decision of JP Tokoto to turn pro. Though he initially didn’t sign with an agent, there were very few people who actually expected him to come back. Even though Carolina is deep enough to survive and even successfully replace JP’s production, the loss of any talented player to any team can have its effects, though not always bad ones.

But what about JP Tokoto? Was this really the best decision for him? He thinks so even claiming to have gotten all he can from UNC. But is he one of the top 60 players in the draft? Is any GM really interested in him? Today I am going to look at reasons why I would and wouldn’t draft him and then explain which way I would go if I was GM of a NBA basketball team

Two reasons why I would draft JP Tokoto


North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina Tar Heels /

North Carolina Tar Heels

If anything was obvious watching JP play last season was that he was an athletic freak. Coming out of high school many people compared him to a young Vince Carter, and if that comparison holds, that’s good news as Vince really started to bloom after he made it to the NBA where his athleticism put him in a league of his own.

JP had one highlight dunk after another including one (I don’t remember which game) where he just flew by three defenders and slamming it down before anyone could adjust. He was often the source of SportsCenter material and really could get the crowd going with one of his monster jams. This would also allow him to out jump other players as he pulled in 5.6 rebounds a game his junior season. His athleticism was also a huge benefit in another area…


JP Tokoto was most often the best perimeter defender on the team. Roy would usually place Tokoto on the other team’s best guard and the fans would watch as that guard struggled to be the same player he was capable of being. Though not a lockdown defender, he used his athleticism to make up for mistakes with strong blocks and timely steals. In today’s NBA players who can do one thing well, such as defense, can often find a niche in today’s league.

Two reasons why I would not draft JP Tokoto

Lacking jump shot

Mar 25, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward J.P. Tokoto (13) shoots during practice before the semifinal of the west regional at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

J.P. Tokoto’s biggest problem is his lack of a reliable jump shot. He can dunk just fine, but get him more than 5 feet from the basket, and even your most ardent Carolina fan held their breath. His career three-point percentage is .265, which is about one make every four shots. In today’s NBA if you can’t spread the floor you are not very useful to most teams.

On top of that, even though he has improved slightly each year at Carolina his best free throw shooting year was his junior year, but that was only 62%. In fact his collegiate career free throw percentage is only a paltry 54%. It is one thing for Shaq or Dwight Howard to shoot that bad, and it is hard to stay on the court in any league if you shoot that bad as a guard.

Tokoto’s lack of shooting is a major drawback for every NBA front office that is looking at drafting him.

Loses Focus

One of the reasons that JP needed to use his athleticism to cover for mistakes was because he was often the one making mistakes. Rather it was a bad lob, a lazy telegraphed pass to the point guard, or throwing the ball away, Tokoto would find ways to give the ball to the other team often in inopportune times. He had 3 or more turnovers in 10 games his junior year and 5 or more in half of those (Carolina went 3-2 in those games).

This lack of focus also led to some poor shooting nights as he failed to score in double digits in 23 of the games he played this past season, including failing to score at least 5 in 8 of those games (Carolina went 4-4 in those games). Players who lose focus not only become detriments on the court but can be distractions off it as well (just look at JR Smith’s role on the Cavs this past post season).

So is he worth a draft pick? According to ESPN’s Chad Ford, his latest mock draft as well as his latest A plus mock draft (both insider pieces) both have  Tokoto going 59th overall (second to last pick) to the Atlanta Hawks. In today’s NBA a late 2nd round pick is actually worse than being an undrafted free agent because at least that allows one to pick the organization to play for (ala James Michael McAdoo with the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors).

Also the late second round is a bad place for a player like Tokoto, who will need to see some real court time to improve. Tokoto is not likely to do that sitting on the bench in between D-League stints with a team that has championship aspirations like the Hawks, assuming he makes the team at all.

So would I draft him? I would say no. If the D-League was an actual minor league like they have in baseball where a player could spend all year improving his game and then be called up when needed, then maybe. But with the way the system is, I am better off drafting a foreign project and stashing him for a few years overseas, than I am drafting a college kid with a clear weakness that any good team would expose. Of course that’s just me, and as has been seen many times in the NBA, it just takes one guy to fall in love with someone’s potential and take a chance, whether that potential is realized or not.