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North Carolina Basketball: Stock Up, Stock Down for Every Player

Rollin YeattsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

North Carolina Basketball: Stock Up, Stock Down for Every Player

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    North Carolina basketball has seen more ups and downs than the New York Stock Exchange.

    The 2012-13 Tar Heels are loaded with raw talent, but lack experience, leadership and consistency on the floor. That has led to UNC's disappointing 10-4 (0-1 ACC) start to the season.

    At times, this squad's future looks darker, colder and lonelier than outer space. But it isn't without a few shining stars casting a warm light on the program.

    It would be easy label everyone's stock—with the exception of Reggie Bullock—down after the conference-opening loss to UVA. That isn't what this article is about, though.

    The stock of each player is not determined by how they played in the most recent game. Rather, it's a measurement of their value in relation to their preseason accolades (or lack thereof) and how they have performed throughout the season.

    Let's take a look at the Tar Heel market.

Jackson Simmons and Luke Davis: No Change in Stock

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    While Jackson Simmons and Luke Davis play with as much heart as anyone on this team, their stock wasn't very high heading into the season. So far, there is nothing to indicate it will get any higher.

    Davis and Simmons were awarded temporary scholarships for this season, due to three Tar Heels leaving early for the NBA. Their minutes reflect that, as both average around five minutes per game.

    They are the only scholarship players that aren't averaging double-digit minutes, and they haven't even played in three of the last four games.

    Given Simmons' and Davis' current state of affairs, it isn't necessary to give them individual slides. They are just the life boats, waiting for a Titanic-like crash to get some usage.

    Jackson Simmons isn't as talented as James Michael McAdoo or Brice Johnson, but he does give more consistent effort and is smarter with his positioning. In times of frustration, Roy Williams will insert him to make a point to the other power forwards.

    The same can be said of Luke Davis, who is one of the better ball handlers on the team. If the other point guards' stock crashes, there may be a quick rise to Davis'.

J.P. Tokoto: Stock Up

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    J.P. Tokoto was a tough one to pinpoint where he stands in the Chapel Hill market. Considering little was expected of him this season, aside from some hellacious dunks, one has to label his stock as "up."

    Given the depth and talent at the wing positions, most people expected Tokto's minutes to be in the single-digits.

    But Tokoto has surprised Tar Heel Nation with his relentless hustle on the boards and on defense. He is the second-most efficient player on the team, in terms of offensive rebounding. He averages one offensive rebound every 8.8 minutes.

    Tokoto has also proven to be one of the better defenders coming off the bench, with his long body and quick feet. He has six steals and four blocks over his limited minutes.

    However, he still has issues shooting the ball. Knocking down 53.3 percent from the field is nice, but he desperately needs to improve on his three-point and free-throw shooting.

    He is currently 1-of-7 from three, and 8-of-22 from the charity stripe.

    Tokoto's stock may not be very high, but he has provided more than folks expected.

Desmond Hubert: Stock Up

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    It would be tough for Desmond Hubert's stock to go down any further than it was at the start of the season. He didn't show a lot of promise in his limited minutes last season, and he just recently started making an impact on the floor.

    The numbers still aren't there for Hubert, but he has played well enough to earn a total of 39 minutes in the last two contests.

    After all, the Tar Heels have been lacking effort this season, and that is something Hubert has provided. He has also shown the ability to score when given a chance on the block.

    It's pretty rare for the Carolina centers to get the ball, though.

    Points would be helpful, but one of the bigger areas of concern is his lack of rebounds. Hubert only has 10 rebounds in his last 49 minutes of action.

    But, in a season where no center has dominated, Hubert has started to look pretty decent. Fans are no longer freaking out about him being in the game, and that's a pretty good indication of rising stock.

Joel James: No Change in Stock

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    Joel James is definitely a work in progress.

    There is tons of potential oozing from James' 6'10", 270-pound frame. But potential is just that.

    This is Joel James' fourth season of organized basketball, and that has shown in every game. He has picked up numerous travel calls and bad fouls—many times piling them up on consecutive possessions.

    It has certainly been a learning process for the big man.

    On the bright side, he has been an excellent rebounder. He battles hard for position, no longer hesitating to put his brick-house body on opponents.

    James also displays a very soft touch on his shots, but hasn't made the most of his opportunities of late. Over the last five games, he is only shooting 2-of-7 from the floor. He is capable of being much better, and that's hard not to see.

    With the constant fluctuation of his game, it's tough to say his stock is up or down. His season has been a bit of a roller coaster, but more like a kiddie coaster than a scary one.

    For that reason, there is no change in James' stock.

Brice Johnson: Stock Up

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    As a Carolina fan, it's hard not to love what Brice Johnson has been able to do this season. Nobody expected this kid to jump on the scene the way he has.

    Coming in, Johnson was known to be a highly-skilled player that had a tendency to do disappearing acts throughout games. At 187 pounds, he wasn't likely to get much playing time at center, and he had James Michael McAdoo in front of him at the 4.

    It appeared everything was working against him making a showing this season, but he made the most of every early opportunity. That quickly boosted his stock among UNC's coaches and fans.

    Through 14 games, Johnson is still the Tar Heel leader in field goal percentage—by almost 10 percent. He isn't a guy that just takes a shot here and there, either. He puts up a shot once every 2.1 minutes he is in the game.

    And Johnson's 0.631 points per minute ranks second on this squad.

    Johnson doesn't just score, either. He averages 4.6 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 0.7 steals per game.

    Not bad for a freshman that averages just 13.4 minutes.

Leslie McDonald: No Change in Stock

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    Leslie McDonald is another player whose stock is in constant fluctuation.

    Watching him in the NC Pro-Am, there was a lot of talk among fans about him being the go-to guy. McDonald simply hasn't progressed much from being a spot-up shooter in his previous two seasons at Chapel Hill.

    The junior shooting guard has been brilliant at times, scoring over 20 points against UAB and Mississippi State. However, 33 of those 45 points came from downtown.

    At the same time, McDonald is shooting 43.1 percent behind the arc, so it's kind of tough to hold that against him.

    He has been in a bit of a slump lately, only sinking 4-of-16 threes in his last five games. If that continues, and he isn't taking it to the hole either, you can expect his stock to quickly plummet.

P.J. Hairston: Stock Up

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    How could P.J. Hairston's stock not go up?

    Fans were rightfully frustrated with Hairston last season, after shooting 30.8 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three. It's been a complete reversal of feelings toward the sophomore this season.

    In my last column, 89.9 percent of fans voted for Hairston to start over Dexter Strickland.

    It isn't that he is shooting much better than last season. His field-goal percentage is still only 38 percent, and his three-point percentage is at 32.9. Those numbers still aren't impressive for a guy that is touted as a marksman.

    It's about everything else he does on the floor.

    In just 19.1 minutes per game, Hairston is averaging 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.1 steals and 12.1 points. He is also the only Tar Heel ahead of Brice Johnson in points per minute, at 0.633.

    Hairston simply gets it done in every aspect of the game. And if charges were tallied, it would probably be between Hairston and McAdoo for the most taken.

    Hairston has won the hearts of fans, coaches and analysts alike. That 180-degree turn undoubtedly warrants his rising stock.

Marcus Paige: Stock Up

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    Too much blame has gone in the direction of Marcus Paige. It's hard to knock anyone for feeling that way, after watching Kendall Marshall dish out 351 assists last season—not to mention the point guard heritage at Chapel Hill.

    But this kid is just a freshman, and is being forced into the toughest position on the floor. He also doesn't have the weapons that were at Marshall's disposal.

    With the exception of the UVA game, Paige has been on an upward trend.

    In his first seven games, Paige was averaging 3.3 assists and three turnovers per game. Since sitting out the UAB game due to injury, Paige is dishing out 5.2 assists to only 1.8 turnovers per game.

    His rise has been slow and undramatic, easily going unnoticed by most observers.

    He is finally driving to the basket, but his teammates need to be in position for the assist. When this team starts to play better and smarter, Paige will look a lot more like the point guard fans expected to see.

    The fact remains, Paige is better than he started this season. Unless he strings together a few more bad games, there is no reason to sell just yet.

Dexter Strickland: Stock Down

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    Dexter Strickland's stock going down isn't a knock on his abilities. He just isn't fully recovered from his ACL tear, and lacks the explosion to make him the effective driver and defender fans have come to expect.

    But a recovering Strickland is still better than a healthy Stilman White.

    Even though the explosion isn't there yet, Strickland will still take it to the hole. Only McAdoo has shot more free throws than Dex this season. His stock would probably be a little higher if he made more of those free throws.

    Strickland is only 26-of-44 from the free-throw line.

    The most frustrating part of his game has to be three-point shooting, though. You can almost hear Tar Heel fans grunt in unison when he puts up a three.

    It's one thing when he puts up a three with the shot clock winding down, but the contested threes without a single pass are the ones that make fans' skin crawl.

    Strickland is a career 23.5 percent shooter from that range. If he goes back to being the guy that shot only one three in 18 full games last season, fans will be much happier with him.

    Even though he isn't locking down the opposition the way he used to, he is at least picking pockets at the highest rate of his career. Strickland leads the team with 1.6 steals per game.

    There is definitely room for his stock to go back up, but I don't think it will be until he has full confidence in that knee—and when he starts leaving the threes to Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston.

Reggie Bullock: Stock Up

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    While most people had James Michael McAdoo as the go-to guy at Carolina, I may have been the only one to give that label to Reggie Bullock. So far, it's tough to argue the reasoning for that offseason analysis.

    Bullock ranks second on the team in scoring, with 13.8 points per game. In his last six games, though, he is averaging 16.3 points.

    What's most impressive about his scoring this season has been his efficiency.

    Bullock is shooting 51.2 percent from the field, which is pretty ridiculous for a wing. Even more insane, is his 49.3 percent shooting beyond the arc—and that's shooting 5.2 of them per game.

    Just 14 games in, Bullock is 33-of-67 downtown.

    Like Hairston, it doesn't stop at scoring with Bullock. The junior is averaging 5.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

    He is the undisputed top defender on the squad, until Strickland is 100 percent. Even then, Bullock might still wear that crown. He's long, quick and doesn't take plays off—which is something that can't be said of everyone on this team.

    What makes Bullock the go-to guy on this team isn't just his ability to score. It's also his ability to have the ball in his hands without turning it over.

    As much as he handles the ball, he only averages 1.1 turnovers per game. That's better than everyone on the team that plays 19 minutes or more.

    The only other thing you could possibly ask from Reggie Bullock is to drive more. Other than that, good luck making a case against him.

James Michael McAdoo: Stock Down

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    Let's face it: with all the preseason hype of James Michael McAdoo, there wasn't going to be much room for his stock to go up. Nor was there much factual evidence to lead to the rise.

    In investment terms, the offseason McAdoo craze was a pump and dump.

    If McAdoo was just supposed to be a future star on a steady rise, this season would be much less costly for the sophomore. But everyone kept piling on that McAdoo train, making expectations harder and harder to meet.

    Now he is under a microscope, with everyone highlighting the very same deficiencies I laid out in the offseason.

    McAdoo rushes his shot too much, which makes him constantly out of balance. What's worse, is his favorite shot is a fadeaway, which only exacerbates the balance situation.

    Other than the fade, he really hasn't developed any post moves. That will come when he learns to slow down and let his feet and muscle do the work, rather than his athleticism.

    McAdoo is only shooting 46.3 percent from the field this season. That doesn't bode well for Carolina, as he has taken more shots than anyone on the team.

    Even more troubling is the fact he has more turnovers than anyone else.

    On the season, J-Mac has 44 turnovers. Meanwhile, Paige, Strickland and Davis have combined for 56—and they're point guards.

    If there wasn't so much hype in the preseason, Roy Williams probably doesn't force McAdoo into the "go-to" role. Bullock would have been the guy from the jump, and McAdoo wouldn't look like he fell on his face.

    McAdoo would simply be a star player in development, which is exactly what he is. The potential is there; he just needs the time and coaching to meet it.

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