Pro Heels: NBA Edition

You can't deny the great impact that ballers who came through Chapel Hill have made in the NBA. Even if we leave out superstars from the Chicago Bulls, there was Hall of Famer James Worthy of the Showtime Lakers, Sam Perkins, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and the high-flying dunks of Vince Carter - who still sees minutes in an increasingly young and competitive league . . . we’ll stop and save you some time.

After they saw their football team get smacked around in Blacksburg on Saturday, Carolina fans are impatiently waiting for the 2017-18 season to officially begin. As we wait, let’s take a look at the roles former Tar Heels who are now in the NBA will play during their upcoming seasons.

#40 Harrison Barnes, SF, Dallas Mavericks

Expect Harrison Barnes to be a major contributor for the Mavericks. As the starting small forward, Barnes will take plenty of shots as Rick Carlisle might choose to play the offense through the athletic 6-foot-8-inch wing.

While the Mavericks continue to rebuild, Barnes will see more than 30 minutes each night. Depending on his production, Barnes could be a dark horse candidate for the 2018 All-Star Game, though, by the end of the year, Dallas will more than likely be fighting for position in the draft – not the playoffs.

#25 Reggie Bullock, SF, Detroit Pistons

Signing a two-year contract over the offseason, Reggie Bullock will remain with the Detroit Pistons this year. 

Despite being plagued by injuries last year, Bullock led the Pistons in three-point percentage, shooting 39.4 percent from deep in his 27 games. Due to lineup needs, Bullock usually played a shooting guard role in his time last year, but this year, with more depth at that position, expect him to play more at the wing. Bullock should be a solid depth player for the Detroit Pistons this year.  

Bullock will be suspended for the first five games of the 2017-18 season for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy. 

#13 Tony Bradley Jr., C, Utah Jazz

The Tar Heels’ other first round pick in the 2017 draft made a bit of noise this summer, averaging over 10 points in five games, shooting better than 50 percent during that span for the Utah Jazz. He also averaged more than 6.5 rebounds and better than one block per game during his time. He finished his summer on a high note, leading all scorers in his final summer league game with 19 points. 

While the Jazz traded up in the draft to acquire Bradley, don’t expect to hear much of him in his first NBA campaign, which will be an experience-building year for the rookie; any minutes he earns will be limited. Don’t be surprised if he spends some time with the Jazz G-League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars. 

#15 Vince Carter, SG, Sacramento Kings

Vince Carter, who is just 40-years-old, is the oldest active NBA player. Carter left the Memphis Grizzlies this summer to join up with a young, young Kings squad. His leadership, experience and knowledge will be invaluable to a team that will rely on players with little-to-no experience in the NBA.

While he won’t play a large number of minutes, don’t be surprised to see Carter on highlight reels with a big dunk or three every now-and-then.

#17 Ed Davis, PF, Portland Trailblazers

Ed Davis, who might be one of the most forgotten players to forge his path from Chapel Hill to the NBA, will be a leading bench contributor to the Trailblazers this year. Davis won’t make headlines, but he’ll put up enough points, blocks and rebounds to help his team win games this year.

Expect him to see a sizeable number of minutes on a team looking for a spot in the postseason after being swept by Golden State in last year’s first round.

#2 Wayne Ellington, SG, Miami Heat

Like many other of the Tar Heels on this list, Ellington will compete for time off the bench. Though former teammate and national champion Danny Green has had more success in the league – especially in three-point shooting – Ellington will hope to find his touch while starting shooting guard Dion Waiters looks for relief.

Ellington may not find his way into the starting lineup, but look for him to find his stroke during the limited playing time he’ll see this season with the Heat.

Last night, in fact, Ellington tied a Heat franchise record with six first-half threes —all of them in the second quarter, in fact— on his way to 20 points in a win over the Hawks.

#2 Raymond Felton, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

While the headline gains for the Thunder were superstars Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, the organization also made note to sign Raymond Felton, who will serve as the primary backup to reigning-MVP Russell Westbrook.

Felton, who played on the 2005 National Title squad, has already played important minutes. While UNC fans will watch his nephew, Jalek Felton, fight for playing time in Chapel Hill this season, they will also see the older Felton put up an important stat line for a Thunder team looking to compete with the best in the West.

#14 Danny Green, SG, San Antonio Spurs

Dancin’ Danny Green will continue to be a starter for the high-caliber Spurs. Green will look to get his three-point shooting stroke back after going cold at the end of the 2016-17 campaign.

As superstar Kawhi Leonard recovers from an injury, expect Green to play around, if not more than, 30 minutes each game. San Antonio will need Green to produce solid numbers if they hope to remain competitive with the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder as the teams attempt to dethrone the Golden State Warriors.


#31 John Henson, PF, Milwaukee Bucks

John Henson will come off the bench, joining a roster with a collective wing-span capable of wrapping itself around the Earth three times. The former Tar Heel will look to compete for nearly 20 minutes a night.

Henson will be a large defensive presence as he continues blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. In his first game of the season, he secured six rebounds and four blocks, not to mention two assists and five points, in just 17 minutes.

On a team that features an early-candidate for MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo and will compete with the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers for the crown in the East, Henson will almost certainly play an important role off the bench.

#25 Justin Jackson, SF, Sacramento Kings

The Kings’ leading scorer this summer showed he can be a capable offensive player in the NBA just as he was in college, and he even cracked the starting lineup in his first regular season game. It took until the 3rd quarter for him to finally find the bottom of the net, but Jackson knocked down a couple of shots including one three-pointer throughout his 19 minutes on the floor in the season opener against the Rockets. 

Expect the 15th overall pick to compete for minutes throughout the season, and don’t be surprised if he earns a few more starts as the season goes along, especially with the ankle injury to teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic. Jackson won’t light the world on fire in his rookie campaign, but don’t act surprised if he makes a bit of a splash and puts up solid numbers. 

#11 Brice Johnson, F, Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers prospect Brice Johnson will try to find more time in the NBA this season after a herniated disk he suffered last October limited his playing time with the Clippers, even after being drafted 25th overall in 2016.

Johnson was a leader on his summer league team this year, averaging 24 minutes and more than 14 points per game while shooting 57.7 percent from the field.  

Johnson will have to compete for playing time on a Clippers roster that is pretty deep at forward, so he will have to continue to prove himself and earn every minute he can if he is going to separate himself from the rest at his position this year. Don’t expect him to start this year, especially if Blake Griffin stays healthy and produces to his potential. 

#14 James Michael McAdoo, PF, Philadelphia 76ers

McAdoo is another Tar Heel who found himself signing a two-way contract this summer, this time with the Philadelphia 76ers. As the 76ers continue “The Process,” it’s not unrealistic that McAdoo could earn some playing time this year with the big club, despite likely spending some time with the 76ers G-League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers.  

McAdoo often got lost in the positional depth of the Warriors’ bench, but he could potentially find some time with on the Wells Fargo Arena floor because of the defense he offers at his position, which could help him stand out among the 76ers bigs. 

#4 Marcus Paige, PG, Charlotte Hornets

Notably, Marcus Paige signed a two-way contract with the Charlotte Hornets this offseason, meaning he will almost certainly be relegated to duties with the Hornets’ G-League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm this year. The fact that he signed one of the NBA’s new two-way contracts could be promising for Paige, however, as it means that the Hornets have more control over him as a prospect, allowing him to develop more in their system. Expect Paige to primarily stay in Greensboro this year and develop his game more over the season. Though he got called up to the big club on Monday, Paige did not appear in the game.

Playing for Minnesota this year in the summer league, Paige averaged more than 8 points and exactly 2 assists per game in his three outings.  

#2 Marvin Williams, PF, Charlotte Hornets

Tar Heel fans remember Marvin Williams for his rebound and shot against Duke in 2005, a season after which he was drafted as the second overall pick despite coming off the bench for Roy Williams.

As he has for many years, Marvin Williams will continue to put up a nice stat line for the Charlotte Hornets. As Kemba Walker and newcomer Dwight Howard continue to take lead of the team, Williams will see plenty of time on the hardwood but a likely reduction of touches.

If Williams can efficiently produce in various ways for Charlotte, don’t be surprised to see Charlotte plotting an upset of an Eastern Conference power come April.

#34 Brandan Wright, PF, Memphis Grizzlies

Brandan Wright, drafted after his freshman year in 2008, will look for minutes off the bench. The capable power forward, who has played nearly 40 minutes through two games – including a win against the Golden State Warriors – can put up an important stat line without finding his way into the starting lineup.

If Wright comes off the bench, the superstar-less Grizzlies will try to squeak into the playoffs as a well-rounded squad. Should Wright find his way into the starting lineup, Memphis will likely be unhealthy, damaging its playoff hopes.

#44 Tyler Zeller, C, Brooklyn Nets

Tyler Zeller, a former national champion and NCAA Academic All-American, signed with the Brooklyn Nets after leaving the Boston Celtics this offseason. The beloved 7-footer will find himself sitting for most of the Nets’ season. If the Nets find itself in a plague of injuries, Zeller could see some time.

Simply put, Zeller will have to fight for every minute he sees on a team looking to position itself in the 2018 draft.

@brycelessgem & @adamjjordan

Justin Jackson photo by Turner Walston