UNC Quartet Helped NBA Draft Stock by Returning to School
In 2006, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer all decided to return to Florida in hopes of winning back-to-back national titles, a feat that came to fruition. Last summer, North Carolina faced a similar situation. The Tar Heels saw sophomores Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, and junior Danny Green declare for the NBA Draft, but later pull their names out in hopes of bringing a championship to Chapel Hill. Also returning to UNC was National Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough. With all that experience returning, the Heels did what they set out to do, breezing through the NCAA Tournament and defeating Michigan State in the championship game.
Now the four Tar Heels will try to follow in the footsteps of the Gators, when Horford, Brewer, and Noah were three of the top nine picks in the 2007 NBA Draft. "We all accomplished something very special and now we're here this year trying to take that next step," Wayne Ellington said at the NBA Draft Combine before discussing how playing another year in college and winning a title helped their stock. "We definitely didn't hurt ourselves at all, we all got better individually and as a team and we did it on the biggest stage, and that definitely helps your resume."
Off the four Heels that will be drafted, Hansbrough is obviously the most heralded (and over exposed). But despite all the accolades (and the ridiculous amount of coverage) this polarizing player received during his collegiate career, scouts question how his game will translate into the NBA. We all became nauseuous from incessantly hearing about his hustle, heart, determination, blah, blah, blah and how his fearless attitude on the court earned him the nickname "Psycho T." But those attributes will only take you so far in the pro game as raw talent tends to take over.
"I'm not going to work out for a lot of teams, probably about 8, I've played for four years, these guys have seen me play, and I don't think they're going to judge me by one workout," Hansbrough said at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. Everyone's favorite player to hate will certainly be a first round pick, likely going as high as 16th overall to the Bulls and dropping as low as the mid-20's, but his outlook at the next level is more of a role player, an energy guy who can come off the bench, grab rebounds, and do everybody's favorite clich?, "the little things that don't show up in the box score." Hansbrough gave a mind-numbing clich? when asked about where he might end up. "I'll work out with these eight teams that I think I fit in best with and we'll go from there," Hansbrough said.
Lawson is a tough prospect to figure out. Because the point guard class is so deep this year, it is hard to tell where teams will rank him compared to others. I would not be surprised if Lawson went as high at number ten to the Bucks, but also wouldn't be shocked if he fell into the early 20's. "I'd love to play there," Lawson said about Milwaukee, "I talked to the coaches yesterday, and their ones play up and down, that's my type of game. They have a lot of weapons, Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Andrew Bogut, so there are a lot of options and I wouldn't mind going there," the student of the game said.
Whoever drafts Lawson will get a proven floor leader and someone who understands how to run an offense. He is lightning quick with the basketball and a great distributor. The biggest concern regarding Lawson last year was his inconsistent outside shooting, but he increased his three-point percentage from 36% to 47% during his junior campaign, proving he can knock down big shots when needed. Lawson himself is pretty confident in his J. When I asked him what are the best things he brings to the NBA table Lawson responded, "probably my speed, leadership, I think I can shoot with the best of them, me and Steph Curry are probably the best shooters out of the group, and I can take care out of the ball, so I think that separates me from the rest of the group."
Ellington is a pure shooter who had one of the prettiest strokes in college basketball. He has a great mid-range game, knows to move without the ball, but is too often streaky from downtown. His athleticism isn't ideal for most NBA two-guards and hasn't shown a tenacity to attack the basket. More than likely, Ellington will be a solid role player at the next level because of his ability to shoot the rock, but it is doubtful that he will ever become a go-to player. He could realistically go as high as #12 to Charlotte, but more than likely falls into the late-teen's/early-twenties. Ellington was asked where he might fit in within the big picture, "Right now all you can do is work, I've been working hard and getting ready and preparing myself," he responded.
Partially due to the ridiculous amount of unnecessary hype surrounding Hansbrough, perhaps no player in college basketball did more for his team and received less attention for it than Green. He isn't going to blow you away with any particular part of his game, but does a little bit of everything truly earning the title "glue guy." Green validated this concept when I asked him what his most saleable skill is. "I don't like to categorize myself in one area or be put in one category, I'm a basketball player. Whatever a team needs me to do, I'll do. Whether it's box out, grab rebounds, play defense, get steals, block shots, spot up shooting, whatever it is, I'm going to try and do," Green said.
Offensively, he is a solid shooter, decent ball-handler, and can post up small defenders on the block. His defense is what will likely allow him to stick on an NBA team because he can guard on both the perimeter and the post. If he lands in the right situation, he could be an invaluable bench player and a steal of a second round pick. I asked Green who people compare his game to. "My younger brother likes to compare me to Brandon Roy and hopefully, I can do some of the things that he can do because we're the same height, same build," Green responded.