Predictions Based on Air

Maybe you have noticed but I have been very circumspect discussing what I think will happen during the next basketball season simply because everything is still very much in the air concerning what the roster will look like.  And it is not just the NBA water testers but also late recruits such as Duke securing Mason Plumlee after he decided not to attend Stanford.  For myself I see zero point in attempting to predict next season when we are not sure who UNC will have.  That being said….

Caulton Tudor decided to play the “what if” game on Sunday probably because, unlike me, he gets paid for his gig and he has to write something.  He does admit upfront that if UNC returns 2-3 of the current draft testers the Heels will be gold. If not they will be 2nd best in the ACC to Duke.  I am not sure I can disagree with that at this point though a lot people said the same thing in 2006 and while the Heels did finish 2nd then, they knocked Duke off in Cameron during the regular season finale.  Just for laughs let’s breakdown what Tudor said about the Heels next season if the doomsday scenario plays out.

2. NORTH CAROLINA (36-3, 14-2)

PROJECTED STARTERS: Tyler Hansbrough, Sr. F; Deon Thompson, Jr., F; Marcus Ginyard, Sr., W; Will Graves, So., W; Bobby Frasor, Jr., G

Everything hinges on the status of Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. The popular assumption is that only Lawson is likely to stay in the NBA Draft pool, but no one can know for sure until announcements are made. The key man is Frasor, who is returning from major knee surgery and might need to play 30 or more minutes per game at the point. Recruits Ed Davis and Larry Drew arrive with reputations as accurate shooters.

OVERVIEW: The offensive pace will slow unless Lawson returns to push the tempo. But with Hansbrough surrounded by a wealth of size and experience inside, the Heels will remain a top-15 team.

First of all, no love for Tyler Zeller?  Secondly, I do not see Will Graves starting unless he learns how to play defense and shoot the ball with a little more accuracy and discipline.  If I had to name a starting lineup right now I think Roy goes big.

PG: Frasor
SG: Ginyard
SF: Thompson
PF: Hansbrough
C: Stepheson

It is important to remember the huge X factor out there is how moving the three point line back will affect the game.  There is simply no way of knowing because the line has been where it is for over 20 years.  A cursory view of it seems to point to increased scoring on the inside since moving it back should lower the percentages some, though I would be surprised if this is significant considering the range players have now.  The issue is the spacing on defense.  The line being a foot further out means perimeter defense has to move out to maintain contact with the shooter.  In my mind it makes playing a zone more difficult and if your offensive spacing is excellent I see it really opening up what happens 10-15 feet in.  With that in mind I see UNC using a bigger lineup but perhaps slowing the tempo some.  I think in this scenario Hansbrough becomes a PF to better utilize that jumper we saw him develop last season.  In my estimation those shots are should be available more than they have been in the past.

I think in terms of placing the best defensive unit on the floor you have to go with this lineup.  We know Frasor and Ginyard can play defense.  Thompson is questionable and so is Hansbrough for that matter simply because he does not look to block shots.  I cannot see Roy compounding the issue by putting another suspect defender out there in Graves.  The logical choice is Stepheson and put him at center so he can defend the basket and maybe give UNC a shot blocker which is something missing since Brandan Wright left.  Also, Hansbrough seems to play his game better with Stepheson complimenting him.  Thompson is quick enough to play an opposing team’s SF if needed, he simply needs to do a better job with his defensive focus and keeping the ball in front of him.

Can this team beat Duke?  Maybe.  The three point line is going to affect them since they depended on it so much last season but with the 6-10 Plumlee coming in alongside Lance Thomas, Duke will have a much improved inside presence that will allow Kyle Singler to run loose all over the court.  They will be a good team that is unless Plumlee develops like most Duke big men have developed over the past 2-3 years.  Also, Greg Paulus is still the PG unless Nolan Smith shows some chops.  And there are three huge X factors coming for UNC in the form of Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis and Larry Drew.  Can one or all of them come in and play huge from day one covering for the loss of Green, Lawson and Ellington sufficiently enough keep UNC viable?  Perhaps and who knows maybe Graves will shock the world come next season.

Then again if 2 of the 3 players currently in the draft decided to come back everything I just wrote is worthless.

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27 Responses to Predictions Based on Air

  1. wcb22 says:

    I agree that having these debates is somewhat pointless at this stage. We can debate all day about who would start at 3 if both Green and Ellington left, but our time would likely not be well spent.

    On a happy note, I found this on the internet this morning and though you all might like a pair:

    http://www.finishline.com/store/catalog/product.jsp?productId=prod625068

  2. DeanForever says:

    Moot predictions my friend. Although it is not absurd to think that Ellington and Green are leaving, the odds are that they will be back. I can’t see how adding Plumpie to the Duke roster makes them the presumptive favorite even without Ellington and Green. It appears that we are all assuming (for the most part) that Lawson will go pro. We have nothing to base these assumptions off of, other than speculation.

    THF-good point about Tyler Zeller. I don’t think that you are off base to ascertain that there is perhaps more than meets the eye in this Plumlee transfer. Quite frankly, it reaks. One blogger had said that Plumlee’s (the one who just transfered-I think) dream was to play for UNC, but had no shot of making the roster. The person responsible for that post lives (as I recall) in the same general area that produced the Plumlees, and had as a good an eye for evaluating them as any analyst. If this Plumlee kid was not even UNC-worthy, then how can anyone place his value above that of Tlyer 2.0 Zeller? Hmmm?

    Let’s say Zeller negates Plumlee’s transfer. Then, it is the ’08 Duke squad sans their leader, Demarcus Nelson. Who is their leader now, Paulus? Okay, then I will say right now that Frasor’s presence can be equated to that of Paulus in terms of floor direction. Ginyard would cover Gerald Henderson (I presume) if Danny Green does not come back. On the interior, UNC all the way. Let’s not forget, if Lawson/Ellington/Green go, Ed Davis will get more minutes and crack double-digits in scoring. Also, Will Graves is, of course, the unknown element in this equation. I can’t recall a player so hard to speculate about. Will he give UNC 15 points per game, or 15 minutes per game?

    I still like the lineup of Frasor, Graves, Ginyard, Hansbrough, and Thompson over whoever Duke lines up. Unfortunately for Duke, and everyone else, Ellington will probably be in there along with Green. If the fates smile upon us, Lawson might still be back. I end with my favorite concluding statement:

    As of right now, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Danny Green are still North Caroinal Tar Heels.

  3. DeanForever says:

    Whoops…they are still “North Carolina Tar Heels.” You all got the point 🙂

  4. Lets hope this whole exercise is for naught, although I believe that it is accurate to say that Lawson is probably gone. And God help us if Will Graves is a starter. I’d rather Tyler Hansbrough start in a guard slot than Graves.

  5. Johnny says:

    I would be surprised if Zeller sees more that 8 mnutes per game. The Heels have a wealth of depth at the 4 and 5. Zeller will no doubt be great in time, but learning the new offense/defense and putting on some muscle will be the key contributions of his first year. LD, Jr. is the only frosh who might see more than 10 minutes.

    I sense I’m alone on this one, but I like Will Graves and think he could have a great year. He has a great shooting stroke and all the confidence in the World.

    And Danny will almost certainly come back and he too is primed for a break out season. In fact, the lack of interest in him at the draft camp may be the kick in the rear he needs to get focused for every moment of every game. He could easily be a 20 point, 8 rebound, 3 assist, 2 block average guy if he keeps his head in the game.

    A line-up of the Bigs just doesn’t have enough offensive firepower, so I think we’re most likely to see this (assuming Lawson and Ellington are gone):

    Hansbrough (w/Zeller covering a little)
    Thompson (w/ Stephenson backing up Tyler and Deon)
    Ginyard (w/ Ed Davis supporting)
    Green (w/ Graves backing him up)
    Frasor (w/ Drew supporting)

    That is still a pretty impressive line-up!

  6. Tar Heel Fan says:

    Yes if Green comes back then I agree with your lineup except Ginyard would go at SG and Green at SF. Green is better around the basket than Ginyard and Ginyard also tends to draw the other team’s scorer on the perimeter.

  7. Johnny says:

    You’re right, THF, I’ve got them crossed up.

  8. Zeller is coming into a perfect position with not having to produce immediately. 8-10 minutes a game (as noted above) is probably right on for him. With his size and skills he SHOULD be a quality player. It is going to be tough for anyone to be able to match up with us inside with Tyler x 2 and Deon and Alex. We have the ability to wear some folks out and get other teams into foul trouble. Speaking of Alex, I have the feeling that he is going to have a breakout season. He showed some flashes of that this past season. Agressiveness and confidence and rebounding positioning will be the key with him.

    And Johnny, you are dead on to say that Danny is poised to have a great season. Barring a shooting slump that is.

    Defensively both Marcus and Danny can be daunting. Danny especially with his length (I don’t like that terminology, but there it is) can pop out on the perimeter and intimidate shooters as well as block shots near the basket (as we have seen) especially in transition.

    I feel good about next season. Unless our guys keep jumping off of balconies into shallow pools that is.

  9. Asheville Heel says:

    DeanForever, I agree that it’s hard to comprehend how the Bob Gibbons of this world rate Mason Plumlee as 5-Star recruit and yet Roy would still rather have Tyler Zeller. Having not seen Zeller myself, I can only relate what I have heard. Roy is supposedly intrigued by Zeller’s rare combination of speed, athleticism and size. A 7′-er who can take the ball off of the board at one end and still finish at the other end on the break. Plus, he is a pretty good shooter with fair range. As you indicated, I have seen Mason Plumlee play and he is a good player (better overall than his more one dimensional brother Miles). He is not overly quick or ultra athletic. As I said before, it was not a question of whether Roy could have had him. All he had to do was make the offer and Plumlee would have jumped all over it. Very simply, Roy would rather have Ty Zeller and the Wear twins instead. I’ll continue to trust Roy’s judgment as a tallent evaluator and let K have his self-proclaimed NBA 1st rounder!

  10. Tar Heel Fan says:

    “I’ll continue to trust Roy’s judgment as a tallent evaluator and let K have his self-proclaimed NBA 1st rounder!”

    Considering what happened to sure fire 1st rounders Shav and McBob I will defer to the UNC coach on this one.

    I think Roy is trying to build a team that can run, run, run. He wants every player on the floor to be able to go end to end and finish but he also wants them to be able to hit jumpers on the secondary break.

  11. Johnny says:

    Zeller (#4 PF) and Plumlee (#6 PF) both look to be very good, nearly 7′ prospects. Zeller is described by one of the recruiting sites as “one of the best runners in the country” and I expect that is what made the difference to Roy.

  12. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    I agree with Johnny’s lineup, and hope Danny Green comes back because I think he could have a monster year as a starting small forward.

  13. Josh Bowling says:

    I am not sure of Ed Davis being able to sub for Marcus Ginyard. Having seen Ed Davis, he seems to be strickly paint. Anywhere outside of there he seems to be unsure of himself and clumsy as well. Ed will have to follow in that Stepheson/Thompson/Hansbrough slot. I think, although he’s 7 foot, that Tyler Zeller may be a little more composed and better able to dribble than Davis. I tell you, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Zeller be like a Tim Duncan on the offensive end. He doesn’t appear like he cares at all about defense though. But that is just 2 games (I have seen).

  14. DeanForever says:

    Josh-

    I have some family in Indiana and they say that Tyler 2.0 can D it up. He really hasn’t played in many meaningful games as of late. In fact, once he chose UNC, it really wasn’t necessary for him to play 100% on both ends. His stock was pretty high when all of the Indiana schools were after him, and he’s since maintained a top-25 Rivals.com position and top-20 Scout.com position. I think that he will blossom into a true stud over four years.

    Ed Davis has tremendous upside, but I’m getting the sense that he’s a bit soft. Any comments?

  15. From what I have seen Davis doesn’t exactly look soft to me. He has a nice medium-range jumper, runs the floor pretty well, can block shots, passes well out of the double team, and has some solid moves down low. However, how all of that will translate from high school to college I don’t know. Dean, you could be right and he could prove to be soft. It is extremely difficult to tell how he will play against far better competition than he faced in high school.

  16. DeanForever says:

    Anxious-

    Thanks for the insight. I typically give some rational or resource material (inks, articles, etc.) for my analysis on a player, but I posted that late last night and my wife was giving me a facial expression that seemed to say, “get your head out of Tar Heel world and come to bed you dork!” So, I apologize (if you are reading Ed) for not backing up my generalized observation.

  17. DeanForever says:

    Also, it is good to hear that Davis passes well (thanks again be to Anxious). If this kid develops a transition game offensively, along with Zeller and Drew…my oh my! In 2010, we will have quite the young team, but on paper if looks like this:

    PG-Larry Drew/Dexter Strickland
    SG-Will Graves
    SF-Ed Davis
    PF-Deon Thompson/Alex Stephenson
    C-Tyler Zeller

    Bench: The Wear Towers, John Henson, and any one (or more) of the following studs-Nolan Dennis (likely), Xavier Henry (unlikely, in that he is probably one-and-done at either Kansas or Memphis), Noel Johnson (not sure, but a 6-7 WG?), and/or Leslie McDonald (Ellington 2.0?).

    I like Roy’s vision.

  18. Tar Heel Fan says:

    I think any attempt to draw conclusions from the all star games is haphazard. Ed Davis looks a little disinterested in the McD game but maybe he was given the way that game is usually played.

  19. DeanForever says:

    And as of 5/6/08, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Danny Green are still North Carolina Tar Heels.

  20. C. Michael says:

    Don’t be surprised to see Henson start as a frosh. The way he is developing, we may be looking at a Durant/Garnett-type player.

  21. Dean and THF, I am basing my “knowledge” of Ed Davis on viewing footage from games in his senior year of high school, so just know that. It’s not like I watched him play every night. And I did not see the McDs game, so I cannot attest to that. I would suggest you do what I did and search YouTube for his highlights and then watch a bunch of them to get an overall idea of his capabilities and weaknesses.

    And soeaking of weaknesses, it seems that one of them I forgot to mention is taking the ball to the hole aggressively on a consistant basis. He does sometimes lag and throw the ball up wekaly, while other times he goes strong to the hole.

    Just for me, I like what I see in him very much. I would ALMOST go as far to say that he has a more complete (remember I am not saying “better” but “complete” ) overall game than either Drew or Zeller.

    And yes, Dean, if Davis and Zeller can run the floor…oh my.

  22. DeanForever says:

    Anxious-

    Thanks for the additional inisight. I have watched some clips of Davis on YouTube. I agree that he lacks a fair amount of aggressiveness in taking the ball to the hoop. That will come with some added experience (and strength conditioning).

    C. Michael-

    I like this talk of John Henson. When you through names around like Garnett and Durant, you fill our minds with floor-to-floor dominance; particularly in the areas of blocking and finishing. I kinda hope that he has a solid, but not spectacular freshman season, so that he can be part of what could be a championship team in 2011.

    I can’t help but be excited about Dexter Strickland. He too may be one-and-done, but he will be something else to watch. I was scouting him long before he committed to UNC. I actually see him as being more of a combo guard than just manning the point. Still, a lineup with he, Drew, Graves, and another blue-chip recruit will be insane. Keep in mind that Graves will have a fairly polished game by 2010. Regardless of what happens with Strickland (how long he chooses to stay), Kendall Marshall is coming in for 2011.

    Hypothetically speaking, the roster in 2011 could include:

    PG-Larry Drew, Dexter Strickland, Kendall Marshall
    SG-Will Graves, insert blue-chip SG here
    SF-Reggie Bullock, insert blue-chip recruit here
    PF-Ed Davis, The Wear Twins, John Henson
    C-Tyler 2.0 Zeller, The Wear Twins

    Gosh, that looks good on screen…I hope it materializes into something rather sweet.

  23. Josh Bowling says:

    I agree that John Henson very well may be a freshman starter. I am still unsure of Ed Davis’ ability to be a SF. He is all painted area player. I could not see him going out on the wing, either on offense or defense. He looks more like a PF to me. Zeller could very well be a starter as well, moving Hansbrough to PF, which I think is where Tyler would like to be (better chance to increase draft spot). But who knows!

  24. Josh, great point about Tyler actually needing to be at the PF spot to increase his stock in the draft. I honestly had not thought of it like that. I would like to think that Zeller (someone called him Tyler 2.0 and I like that) would be able to start but I am not certain he is that far along. That moves Deon and Alex around in the C spot, with Tyler 2.o coming off the bench, which has advantages and disadvatages. I still maintain that this will be a breakout year for Alex.

  25. DeanForever says:

    I would like to draw attention (if I may) to one particular position (recruiting-wise) that we really haven’t focused on; which is, small forward. As of right now, Roy has not aggressively (to our collective knowledge) gone after any of the big-name small forwards in either the 2009 or 2010 classes. In an earlier post I listed Ed Davis as the likely small forward for 2010. My rationale there was simply that UNC did not have anyone else who could play the position. The only other option would be to play three guards: Drew, Strickland, and Graves. On paper, that doesn’t look to be that bad of an idea, but it could cause some matchup problems; particularly if/when the Tar Heels play the Kansas/Memphis ’08 prototypes (taller, more athletic).

    So, I have compiled a list of the top small forward players in the 2009 pool based upon their collective rankings on both Scout and Rvials. As several of you know, both websites offer conflicting alalysis and even have several of the players in interchangeable lists (shooting/wing gaurds, small forwards, and power forwards). I have also listed the probability of each player coming to UNC. My formula for defining the probability is this: I take the specific player’s expressed interest in UNC (high, medium, low) and assess a percentage to those levels (75%, 50%, and 25% respectively). Then I divide the number of schools each player is interested (including UNC0 and divide by one. Finally, I define the mean of the two percentages.
    So here we go:

    Derrick Favors 6-6/210 0%
    Why add a player with a zero percent probability on the list? Well, I need an answer to the potential problem area of finding a solid small forward recruit and my search starts here. The fact that UNC has (according to Scout) made him an offer, to which he showed no apparent interest, might allude to developing trend in all (potential) small forward recruits. Perhaps Favors, like other forward recruits (small or power) have made note of the abundance of talent on the frontline already (which, for 2010 should include Deon Thompson, Alex Stephenson, Ed Davis, John Henson, The Wear Bros., and Tyler 2.0.

    Tristan Spurlock 6-6/215 30%
    His stock is rising. He has interest in UNC, but Virginia is highest on his list.

    Kerron Johnson 6-7/210 0%
    The fact that no offer was given from UNC, Duke, Wake , or NC State says it all.

    Ari Stewart 6-7/185 28%
    Tall and thin. Depending on his commitment to defense, he could be a matchup nightmare for opponents.

    Lance Stephenson 6-5/205 32%
    Rivals has him at the 2 spot, but Scout has him at SF. Although a prime-time talent, his intensity masks his sheer contempt for oppenents. Case in point: a prominent college prep school in my home city defeated Stephenson’s team back in December. After the game, Stephenson shoved two coaches on the opposing team and cursed profanities at a few of the players. Great character. Coach K would love to have this kid.

    Shawn Williams 6-6/185 28%
    Similar physical profile to Ari Stewart. UNC aren’t in his top three.

    Dominic Cheek 6-6/180 34%
    I know, I know…he’s listed at a 2 guard. However, if Scout and Rivals are interchanging Lance Stephenson’s positions, then I will put Cheek in here ar a SF. I was following his recruitment for a while, or at least through mid-March, and it appeared that he was interested in all things UNC. It would appear that UNC has taken a back seat to several other east coast programs. Perhaps he saw the abundant talent (both current and incoming) at SG at realized that he would essentially be platooning at UNC.

    So, after running these numbers, the highest probability of any of these players coming to UNC is 34% (and that percentage is for Cheek, who is not even a small forward). I don’t know what Derrick Favors is looking for in a basketball program, but if it should be the usual criteria (great campus, national exposure, winning program, great coach, and playing time) then UNC would be a great fit due to the lack of small forwards on the roster.

    Any thoughts on this? Does anyone else have any insight as to what is happening out there on the recruiting trail in regards to small forward recruits?

  26. BoulderHeel says:

    THF….LTReader – FTWriter

    On poor defense you said “…Hansbrough for that matter simply because he does not block shots.”

    Hansbrough took quite a few (unfounded) shots from the established media last year about his defense and you defended him admirably. Are you now agreeing with the pundits? I think that the blocked shot is an exciting play but it is an overrated defensive statistic. Other than the Ewing (psychological) effect, a blocked shot into the stands does not result in a change of possession and does little more than interruptthe the flow of the offense. This is similar to defensive players getting their hands on passes. If it does not result in a steal then it merely interrupts the flow of the offense. Do we keep statistics on tipped passes? How do you measure the value of a blocked shot if it is picked up by an offensive player out at the 3-point line and he promptly pops a 3? The blocked shot turned a 2 point attempt into a 3 point play. Shouldn’t that count against the defense? (The above scenerio occured in the NCAA tournament when Love turned a 2-point attempt into a 3-point basket, I think that it was the Davidson game). To the pundits, when you quote me blocked shots, I multiply that stat by 1/2 (.4,,,,.6?) to get a realistic projection of blocked shots that resulted in a turnover.
    Now that we’ve established that I prefer defense that results in a change of possession, how does Tyler stack up? Do not quote me, but I believe that Tyler had 99 of these through offensive fouls taken or steals. These result in an immediate change of possession. I agree that it sounds manly to shout, “get that sh*t outta here,” but I prefer the words ,”my ball.”
    Tyler plays good position defense. He keeps his feet moving, he stays between the player and the goal, and he keeps his hands up. Isn’t that the way we teach our kids? If he continues to do that then the weakside defensive help should come over and be in better position to block that shot or steal the ball.
    The point to my rambling…….don’t fall into the trap set by the pundits of measuring defense by the over-rated statistic of blocked shots. I prefer that you get me the ball.

    BTW……love your site and great insight … for a BuzzBlogger!

  27. DeanForever says:

    …and now Scout has finally assessed a ranking for Reggie Bullock, the ’10 commit who is 6-7/185. His ranking? #1 WG. How this alluded my attention is fairly baffling to me, but Rivals have yet to fully assess the 2010 talent pool. If this ranking is legit, then the three guard set makes sense. Thanks to Bullock’s size, he can matchup well with either two-guards or small-forwards.

    Any info on Reggie Bullock?

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