North Carolina is going to be a very different team next year as four-fifths of its starting lineup will be in in the NBA.
John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall all will leave the university as underclassmen and enter the NBA draft, North Carolina has announced. (The fourth starter to leave is senior Tyler Zeller.)
There is no real surprise here, all three are underclassmen are considered solid first round picks, with Barnes and Henson in the lottery and Marshall on the fringe. It was expected they would throw their names into the draft.
Barnes almost left after his freshman year (he was considered a top five pick last year) but returned to have an up-and-down season that culminated in some uninspiring play in the NCAA Tournament. He can shoot and has a smooth game, plus he can defend (although there are questions how well he can do that against the elite athletes he will face at the next level. DraftExpress has the versatile small forward now going No. 7 overall.
Henson, the very athletic 6’11” power forward (who is a bit raw on offense), is ranked right behind him at No. 8 by the same site. Marshall, the point guard who had to miss his final college games due to a broken wrist, is ranked No. 14. (Zeller is slotted to go No. 10 by DraftExpress.)
That is four potential lottery picks leaving in one year. Michael Jordan may be almost as unhappy as Roy Williams.
Chris Paul broke his finger Saturday.
The initial diagnosis said the injury wasn’t serious.
Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:
Paul obviously wouldn’t push it during the preseason. If the Clippers are allowing him to play, this can’t be bad.
Really, the most challenging aspect to this is grasping the concept that a broke finger can be a minor injury.
Brad Stevens has a big challenge this year – sorting the Celtics’ deep roster of similarly able players.
It seems that process is shaking out at power forward and center.
A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:
it appears Boston’s first four bigs will be starters David Lee and Tyler Zeller, with Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk off the bench.
That leaves Jonas Jerebko and Jared Sullinger, potentially on the outside looking in as far as the regular rotation is concerned.
Lee is the best passer of the bunch, which could partially explain why he’s starting. Boston’s most likely starting point guard, Marcus Smart, is still growing into the role of the lead ball-handler at the NBA level. Lee and presumptive starting shooting guard Avery Bradley can take some pressure off him.
Olynyk can space the floor for Isaiah Thomas-Johnson pick-and-rolls with the reserves and run pick-and-pops with Thomas himself.
I’m a little surprised Zeller is starting over Johnson, though. The Celtics just signed Johnson to a $12 million salary, and I thought they’d rely on his defense to set a tone early. Like Johnson, Zeller is a quality pick-and-roll finisher who can thrive with Thomas.
This is particularly bad news for Sullinger, who – barring a surprising contract extension – is entering a contract year. It seems those reports of offseason conditioning haven’t yet paid off. Jerebko’s deal also isn’t guaranteed beyond this season, but at least he has already gotten his mid-sized payday. Sullinger is still on his rookie-scale contract.