A few weeks ago, I projected Joel James to be the starting center for the Tar Heels. With the news of his tendinitis, though, I'm a little more hesitant to name him the clear-cut starter for 2013-14.
This is why I have also included Desmond Hubert, who is likely to be James' most worthy challenger. The other options are two freshmen—one of whom is a power forward—and a sophomore power forward who isn't breaking 200 pounds wet.
In the best-case scenario for Joel James, the sophomore starts showing signs of being the best center Roy Williams has put on the floor. That says a lot, considering Sean May and Tyler Zeller played under the Hall of Famer at Chapel Hill.
Neither of them had the body of James, though. And his Downy-soft shooting touch is worthy of placing him among Roy's best.
Last season, James displayed a nice hook and a smooth jumper from about 10 feet out. With his massive 260-pound frame, adding a drop step would be lethal. And with his improved confidence, he will play more freely.
That means defenders better get out of the way when the big man goes up to rock the rim. That's something we didn't see last season, even though he is perfectly capable of posterizing defenders.
By no means will he reach the level of Zeller and May as a mere sophomore. But his rapidly improving play will open a lot of eyes.
In this scenario, James will average 11 points, nine boards and almost two blocks per game. That's more than enough to take attention off of James Michael McAdoo.
If Hubert ends up getting the nod, you can expect him to put up similar numbers. However, he will still be less dominant in the post.
Most of his points will come from fast breaks, alley-oops and putbacks. He'll probably drop a hook in here and there, but he doesn't come off as a back-you-down kind of guy.
It's not a weight thing, either. He'll probably come into November pushing 240 pounds. But a post player has to have the offensive willpower to go with the weight.
And Hubert is a defensive-minded player.
That said, defense is where we will see the most impact from Hubert. As a starter, he would land somewhere in the top 25 for shot-blockers, with an average over 2.5 per game. He will also be considered for the ACC's all-defensive team.
His rebounds and points would be a little less than James, though. Expect eight points and eight rebounds as a best-case scenario for Hubert as the starter.