North Carolina Basketball: The Biggest Flaw of Every Tar Heel
Despite the views of many across the country—not to mention its 13-6 record—North Carolina basketball has a hefty share of talent. It is just in the early stages of development.
And talent in development usually means a lot of flaws. This group is no exception, and today we will focus on the biggest flaw of every key Tar Heel.
Some flaws can be fixed this season. Some will have to wait until the offseason. And a few may never be fixed.
Nevertheless, these weaknesses in their games have played a substantial role in UNC's disappointing 2012-13 campaign.
Desmond Hubert Is Limited in Offensive Firepower
In all honesty, it's tough to say how limited Desmond Hubert is on offense, considering he never gets the ball in the post. Then again, he is rarely in position for a post feed.
Hubert's shining moments come on the defensive end, where he has become a consistent shot-blocker and pocket-picker over the past few games. As a matter of fact, he has almost as many blocks (21) as points (23) this season.
Over the last three games, Hubert has eight blocks and four steals—and zero points.
Considering Carolina is usually scraping for points in the early minutes of its games, starting Hubert in the majority of them hasn't been conducive to a fast start. He did get the team in transition against Maryland, but UNC has an obvious need for firepower in the half court.
Joel James Has a Hand Problem
It isn't that Joel James' hands are hurt or too small. They just aren't soft enough to catch that hot post feed.
That's a serious problem for a guy that plays with his back to the basket.
There is no doubt James has game.
He has a beautiful touch, and he doesn't hesitate to score with the ball in his hands. He'll use his 270-pound frame to back his defender into the paint for an easy hook or lay-in. James will even knock down the occasional spot-up jumper.
But he has to hold on to the ball first.
There has been a lot of progression in James' game over the last couple weeks, and his performance should be commended. But his hands still serve as his greatest weakness.
I remember when a young John Henson had that same issue.
Some guys can fix it, and others never will. If James can solve his hand problem, he'll be getting a lot more looks in the post.
And he may become the center the Tar Heels have been missing all season.
Brice Johnson Needs the Beef
There is no doubt Brice Johnson is one of the more exciting freshmen in this 2012 class. His field-goal percentage of 56.2 leads all Tar Heels on this list.
For that reason, fans have been begging for more time out of the lanky power forward/center. Especially since the team ranks 111th in the nation, shooting 44.6 percent from the field.
Unfortunately for those desperate fans, James Michael McAdoo plays in front of him at power forward, and Johnson lacks the weight to bang with the ACC bigs at center.
Weighing in at 187 pounds, it just isn't a fair game down low.
Can you imagine him having to go one-on-one with Miami's 292-pound beast of a man, Reggie Johnson? No matter how much Brice Johnson supporters love him, it would be ludicrous to think he could match up with someone that big.
He isn't David, and last time I checked, slingshots aren't allowed in basketball.
While Reggie Johnson is an extreme example, opposing centers would regularly have a 30-to-40-pound advantage on Brice. Fortunately for the young star in the making, Carolina's strength and conditioning program has put significant weight on two other lanky Tar Heels: Henson and Hubert.
Johnson has a bright future in Chapel Hill, and it will likely be at the power forward position. But he will still have to put on a solid 30 pounds before we will see his full potential.
J.P. Tokoto Lacks Range in His Game
Anyone thinking J.P. Tokoto was strictly a dunker heading into college was sorely mistaken. This kid has all kinds of game and has rapidly developed during ACC play.
Tokoto is now known as one of the top on-ball defenders on the squad. His leaping ability and body control is off the charts. He always makes the hustle plays, he is a great passer and has become a consistent midrange shooter.
But he still isn't burying those treys.
On the season, Tokoto has only knocked down one of his 10 attempted threes. That's the biggest difference between Tokoto and the often-compared Vince Carter.
Carter was able to improve on that aspect of his game with each year he played, and Tokoto could do the same. He has one of the greatest shooters of all time at his disposal in assistant coach Hubert Davis.
There is no doubt Davis has played a part in Carolina's improved three-point percentage this season.
As he has undoubtedly been told by the master, most of his problem is in the lower half of his body. Tokoto has a tendency to spread his legs when he shoots, which throws off his balance.
In flight, that seems to work for him as a counter-balance, as he is surprisingly efficient when he hangs in the air on a drive to the basket. But that just doesn't work with jump shots. His entire body should be lined up.
Right now, it's a matter of muscle memory, and the only way to retrain muscles is through repetition.
P.J. Hairston Struggles with Consistency
P.J. Hairston has been a baller for most of the season, and many of us are still baffled by him opening games on the bench. Even though he isn't a starter, Hairston has scored double-digits in 11 of his 18 games. He missed Indiana with a sprained knee.
The problem with Hairston is he tends to throw in a stinker every couple games.
Against NC State and Georgia Tech, he buried 11 of 21 shots. Before that was Maryland, when he shot 1-of-8 from the floor. Just glance over Hairston's game log, and you'll see a similar trend throughout the season.
The good news is the stellar games come much more often than they did last season. They were almost non-existent during his freshman campaign.
The key for Hairston is to get some easy shots in the beginning and then work his way to the perimeter. He loves taking his threes, but he is much more consistent when he is able to get in a rhythm first.
Once he starts on that trend, there is no way Roy Williams will keep him out of the starting lineup.
Bullock Struggles to Create His Own Shot
Reggie Bullock has been an excellent scorer this season, and is challenging McAdoo for the lead in that category with 14.1 points per game. He leads the team with a three-point percentage of 45.5, and he also averages 5.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals and three assists per game.
The one thing he doesn't do is create his own shots—at least not with any frequency.
Bullock just isn't the type of player that will take out his defender in isolation. He isn't a highly-skilled dribbler, and at 205 pounds, he doesn't have the mass to bully anyone.
Every once in a while, he will slice through the defense and put it up on the glass. But most of his shots are of the spot-up variety, occasionally mixing in a jab step here and there.
Bullock may never be a great shot creator, but that's just fine if the other guys can get it together. He's certainly consistent enough to make up for it with his jumpers.
Dexter Strickland's Jumper Is Suspect at Best
In the past, Dexter Strickland has been an outstanding defender for the Tar Heels. He hasn't been quite the same on that end of the floor since his ACL tear, but he can still take it to the hole.
What needed to change—for both the team and his potential at the next level—was his jump shot. The release looks a little more fluid, but the result has been much the same.
Prior to this season, Strickland was 16-of-67 on his attempted threes. In 2012-13, he is just 4-of-20. Considering he only took one three in 18 games last season, something must have him thinking he found his shot.
There has been no evidence of that in the 19 games he has played this season.
When he is set, Strickland appears to be mechanically sound. Unfortunately, most of his shots seem to be in desperation, as the shot clock is winding down. That's when he has a tendency to lean, fade or spread his legs.
Strickland has become his own worst enemy.
He should still take the open 15-to-17 footers and maybe even the occasional open three. We could see a different Strickland if he would just take better shots.
Marcus Paige Continues to Struggle Shooting
Marcus Paige is starting to drive and drop dimes with more regularity than when he started his Carolina career. He is averaging five assists per game over his last five contests.
On the flip side, he is averaging 2.8 turnovers per game.
However, even more concerning is his 31.4 percent shooting. In that five-game stretch, he is just 10-of-40 from the field and 6-of-18 from three.
Paige is missing jumpers, floaters, layups and everything between. Nothing seems to be falling for the freshman.
This is a guy that knocked down 60 percent of his twos and 44 percent of his threes during his senior year of high school. Sure, there is a massive transition from high school to college, but that shouldn't affect open jumpers and slightly contested layups.
Paige will eventually find his stroke again, but there are few indicators of that happening any time soon. And if he is going to take 40 shots in five games, it needs to happen sooner than later for the Tar Heels to shine.
James Michael McAdoo Has to Find His Shooting Touch
Like many of the other Tar Heels, James Michael McAdoo's game has become more solid as the season has progressed. He has slowed down and stayed under control, while maintaining his intensity through longer stretches of games.
McAdoo is still struggling to find his touch, though, and that affects him in two different categories.
He doesn't shoot many jumpers, but he should shoot them more often to gain some confidence in that aspect of his game. If the defender is giving him space, there is nothing wrong with trying to knock down a 15-footer.
Many fans will complain, as they did with Henson, but it's a part of the game that must be developed by the power forwards of today. Henson eventually got it down, and McAdoo could too. He just can't fear letting one fly.
He also needs to improve on his free-throw shooting, where he is only shooting 59 percent. With 100 free throws attempted this season, the next-closest player is Strickland at 57.
That doesn't bode well for Carolina at all.
Until a majority of these Tar Heels can get a grip on their deficiencies, the team will continue to struggle against their toughest competition. Especially on the road, where all but one of their losses have come.