North Carolina Basketball: 5 Biggest Red Flags on Tar Heels Roster

Rollin YeattsFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2013

North Carolina Basketball: 5 Biggest Red Flags on Tar Heels Roster

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    Legal and academic situations aside, the future of the North Carolina Tar Heels' basketball program appears to be in much better shape than it was in 2012-13. Roy Williams has loaded his roster with natural talent over the last couple years, and he was even able to return a couple players who have already been tempted by the NBA.

    But every team has its share of red flags on its roster, and UNC is no exception.

    The five Tar Heels on this list have shown a lot of promise at the collegiate level. But promise doesn't win championships.

    Development does.

    That was the primary factor in deciding which players got flagged. Without improvement from these Tar Heels, Coach Williams will have a hard time getting the team to click—especially on the offensive end.

5. James Michael McAdoo, PF

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    Some could say it is a bit of a stretch to put North Carolina's second-leading scorer on this list. To that, I say, "Points are great, but efficiency means more to a team."

    This will undoubtedly be the focus of James Michael McAdoo during the offseason.

    Last season, McAdoo took 101 more shots than anyone else on the squad. However, he only dropped 44.5 percent of those in the bucket. He also led the team with 2.7 turnovers per game.

    That isn't efficient. And that is when the points tell a little fib.

    At the distance they work from the basket, post players are expected to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor. That is what Roy Williams has gotten from every one of his "star" post players since returning to his homeland in 2003.

    That is, with the exception of Sean May and James Michael McAdoo.

    May shot 46.5 percent through his first two seasons in Chapel Hill. He also gave up 2.3 turnovers per game during that time. In 2003-04, the Tar Heels finished 19-11 and were bounced in their second game of the tourney.

    Sound familiar?

    The following season, May still had his turnovers, but he bumped his shooting percentage to 56.7. UNC went on to win a title that year.

    The natural talent and excellent frame he was blessed with provide McAdoo with a very high ceiling. In order to reach his potential, though, he must learn to be patient in the post.

    He has to come into his junior season with more than a turnaround jumper and straight-line speed. He needs to know when the shot isn't there and defer to his teammates. McAdoo also needs to become more consistent with his jumpers and extend his range beyond 15 feet.

    All of these things will make McAdoo a much more efficient player.

    Success in Roy Williams' system isn't possible without dependable post players. McAdoo absolutely has to improve in these areas.

4. Leslie McDonald, SG/SF

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    The graduation of Dexter Strickland and the early draft entry of Reggie Bullock put a serious dent in North Carolina's depth at the wing positions. That means a lot of weight will rest on the shoulders of fifth-year senior Leslie McDonald.

    Even more so if P.J. Hairston isn't available.

    With his pedestrian stat lines from last season, many fans have started to write off McDonald. His 35.7 percent shooting from downtown was especially disconcerting, considering he is at least supposed to be a solid three-point threat.

    McDonald shot 38.1 percent behind the arc as a sophomore.

    But as Keeping It Heel's Alexander Hines points out, what we have seen from McDonald, statistically, has been a trend among many Tar Heel wings. Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington boosted their production as their minutes went up.

    Before their breakout seasons, many people questioned those players, too. Perhaps we will see the same trend with McDonald.

    In his limited minutes at Chapel Hill, McDonald has proved to be an apt defender, a heads-up passer, a natural shooter and boasts some fairly tight dribbles. In other words, he has the ingredients to be a key contributor to the 2013-14 squad.

    But McDonald will have to capitalize on the blessing he received with Bullock's early departure.

    Will he be the guy who shot over 40 percent behind the arc and had two 20-point games through the first 13 of 2012-13? Or will he be the guy who folded up after returning from a suspension and injury?

    The latter is the McDonald everyone remembers. It's up to him to make everyone forget that other guy.

3. J.P. Tokoto, SF

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    Sophomore J.P. Tokoto will also be looked to for a spark from the wing position. But his freshman campaign left a lot to be desired, making him one of the bigger offseason projects for the coaches at UNC.

    Tokoto was a non-factor from the perimeter, shooting just 1-of-11 from three-point range. In spot-up and off-the-dribble situations, his body was too loose, causing him to be unbalanced and inaccurate.

    According to Inside Carolina, former Tar Heel Shammond Williams has already made Tokoto aware of his flaws.

    “During the season he would see my elbow kind of come out, off to the side like a chicken wing almost,” Tokoto said. “So now I’m locking it in position and I’ve seen tremendous results from just that."

    In addition to the help he's receiving from Shammond Williams and assistant coach Hubert Davis, Tokoto has taken it upon himself to arrive 15-20 minutes early for workouts to practice his spot shooting with the ball machine.

    He is showing the character and dedication it takes to be great. And that's good news, when you consider he is one of the more impressive athletes—and probably the most active player on the Tar Heels roster.

    Tokoto also proved to be one of the top on-ball defenders Roy Williams had at his disposal last season. And that was as a freshman.

    He averaged 0.5 steals over just 8.6 minutes per game. Not to mention 1.7 rebounds and 0.7 assists.

    Tokoto will, however, have to be a little more selective with his passing. He has excellent vision for the position, but too often he tried to fit the rock in extremely tight windows. That was a big part of his 31 turnovers.

    Experience and playing time should fix that issue.

    North Carolina needs Tokoto to become a productive player with the lack of depth at the wing. And, by all accounts, the rising sophomore appears to be mentally ready for the challenge.

    Now he just needs to show it on the hardwood.

2. Desmond Hubert, C

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    Desmond Hubert has been a project since his prep days in New Jersey. With dedication and quality coaching, the center has improved every year.

    But it seemed he received a bit of a shock when he reached the collegiate ranks. In his limited minutes as a freshman, Hubert seemed lost on defense and inept on the offensive side of the floor.

    Then, as a sophomore, he showed an uncanny ability to find great shot-blocking angles. He averaged 0.8 blocks over just 9.4 minutes per contest.

    He was also the highlight of UNC's 8-0 start against Maryland in the teams' first meeting, tallying a block and two steals in the first minute of action.

    Hubert remained a non-factor offensively, however, and that is an area he will need to improve to earn the starting job. Especially if the next guy on the list steps up his game.

    Inside Carolina has reported that Hubert is working on that aspect of his game. He's solidifying his hook shot, adding more back-to-the-basket moves and working on his jumper.

    He isn't done working on his frame, either. Hubert gained 27 pounds between his freshman and sophomore seasons, and now he's hoping to reach close to 240 pounds.

    That should also help him out offensively.

    In addition to improving his frame and post game, he really needs to work on his free-throw shooting. There is a lot of fouling that goes on in the paint, and his 4-of-27 shooting from the stripe isn't going to cut it.

    That's pretty awful.

    There is no question about Hubert's effectiveness on the defensive side of the floor. But his offense remains a concern until he proves to be capable.

1. Joel James, C

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    Joel James, on the other hand, showed he is very capable on the offensive end. The 6'10", 260-pound center has an astonishingly soft touch, decent footwork and a couple go-to post moves already.

    His lack of experience showed, though. Last year was only his fourth season playing organized basketball at any level.

    Mental errors plagued James on both sides of the floor. He ended up out of position on defense and picked up too many unnecessary fouls. On offense, he traveled in non-scoring situations and struggled to catch inlet passes.

    He did tighten up his game, though, making fewer mistakes as the season progressed.

    With his size and natural talent, James' potential is off the charts. The best news is that his current flaws are easily fixable. He's a dominant center waiting to happen, and he is very close to breaking out.

    There is very little doubt he will do just that during his time at Chapel Hill. But the Tar Heels need him now.

    Whether it's James or Hubert, someone has to step up as the clear-cut starter at the 5. One of these guys has to give McAdoo a break from the onslaught of defenders he had to deal with last season.

    The only way to do that is becoming worthy of the defense's attention.

    If these five Tar Heels can shake off those red flags in the offseason, dealing with all of Carolina's weapons will be a frustrating affair for opposing teams.