UNC Basketball: What if Tony Bradley had stayed?

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 03: Tony Bradley
GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 03: Tony Bradley /

What if Tony Bradley had stayed for his sophomore season? Would the Tar Heels be in the same position as they are currently?

The Atlantic Coast Conference season is now halfway over for the Tar Heels and at 5-4 in ACC play, most would say things have not gone according to plan, especially after their recent loss at home to NC State.

Of course, not all is lost for the Tar Heels.

Halfway is halfway for a reason and with nine games remaining, a lot can still happen between now and Selection Sunday.

However, this season has raised some questions and some of those questions come in the form of “What ifs”.

So today I want to look at one of those: What if Tony Bradley has stayed?

The Tar Heels have by far been a lot smaller this season. Oddly enough that has not been seen on the glass where the team is averaging just one rebound less per game, despite starting a lineup that has no one taller than 6-foot-8.

The small size has also not hurt the team’s interior defense. Teams are shooting 44.8 percent on two-point field goals, a number that is actually two points lower than last season. The Tar Heels are also blocking one more shot per game than last year as well.

The only real area the Tar Heels are down, interiorly is offensive rebounding, which has dropped nearly two per game.

So is the team really missing Bradley’s presence? One need only look at the Tar Heels play of late to see that is the case.

In ACC play, teams are shooting 51 percent from inside the arc. That is nearly six more points than the team’s season average.

Bradley would also provide the team with a third scoring option, something it has been lacking in more than one game this season.

So if Bradley was with the team, what would that look like?

Last season Bradley averaged seven rebounds and five points and shooting 57 percent while playing only 14 minutes per game behind starting big men Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks.

If you took just his stats from last season and increased his playing time from 14 minutes to 27 minutes you would find a player averaging about 13 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account any improvement of play.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – FEBRUARY 10: North Carolina forward Ed Davis
CHAPEL HILL, NC – FEBRUARY 10: North Carolina forward Ed Davis /

A good example for how much Bradley might have improved this season would be Ed Davis. Like Bradley, Davis was the third option on a championship team.

The next season, as the go-to big, Davis broke out more than doubling his scoring while improving his overall stats.

If Bradley was to take a similar jump, the would-be sophomore could be looking at a stat line of 23 points and nearly 14 rebounds per game while shooting 63 percent from the field.

This would easily make Bradley one of the top players in the ACC, while giving UNC a legit big man to run the offense through.

Obviously, the Tar Heels would expect to just add Bradley’s production to the fold. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Bradley would be taking playing time from others. Most notably, the time Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks receive would be cut tremendously.

Additionally, there would probably be a slight drop off for Luke Maye as well as Bradley would undoubtedly take some of his touches, though this could lead to better and more efficient play from the junior, who would move back to his natural four position.

The biggest question is, did Bradley make the right decision. It’s hard to know.

Bradley was selected with the 28th pick of the first round last season and has played sparingly for the Utah Jazz.

Bradley has appeared in eight games this season for the Jazz and is averaging one point and 1.5 rebounds in 3.5 minutes per game. He has spent most of his time with the Salt Lake City Stars of the NBA G League.

By leaving after one season, Bradley gained the opportunity to make first round money but missed out on the growth big men tend to have at UNC under Roy Williams.

If he produced numbers at the high end of the predictions while helping lead UNC to another sweet 16, he could be a lottery pick in this seasons draft. If he regressed though he may have fallen out of the first round, ala James Michael McAdoo.

In the end, I am not sure how much better this team would be with Bradley. I do believe they would have a few more wins, though they probably would still be trailing Virginia in the standings.

The biggest thing with what-ifs is we will never know for sure, but it is something to think about as the team enters the second half of the season.

Next: UNC tumbles in latest AP Top 25 Poll

What do you think would’ve happened had Bradley stayed? Let us know in the comments below.