North Carolina Basketball: Offseason Stock Watch for Tar Heels' Top Players
After a disappointing season laden with growing pains, North Carolina is on the rise once again. So are the stocks of a few Tar Heels.
For many, there was virtually no place to go but up. UNC's roster was packed with inexperienced—yet talented—youth that looked lost more often than not.
Few freshmen are able to make a seamless transition to the faster, more physical college game. Not to mention the pool of talent these that young kids have to face.
For sophomores, becoming a starter is also a whole new endeavor.
But stocks don't rise according to what has already been achieved. They rise on potential, and that's something the Tar Heels listed have plenty of.
The following players are my top five returners, ranked in order of talent.
5. Joel James: Stock Up
If there was a way to invest in Joel James' future, I'd smash open my piggy bank to grab as many shares as possible. James' stock will never be lower than it is right now.
Following a disappointing season, there isn't much talk about the 6'10", 280-pound beast of a man heading into 2013-14. The freshman center stumbled and bumbled through his freshman campaign, often leaving fans perplexed with his poor decisions and slippery hands.
Don't expect that imposter to show up again.
With a season under his belt, James will have a better idea of what to expect at the collegiate level. He'll also have time to build chemistry, erase those mental errors, hone his skills and fully understand the system at Carolina.
All of that will be matched with his God-given soft shooting touch and intimidating build.
Joel James will be a monster at the collegiate level, and his impact will be felt as a sophomore. No matter how impressive he is in 2013-14, fans can look forward to the big man becoming more dangerous as the years tick by at Chapel Hill.
4. Brice Johnson: Stock Up
Brice Johnson's stock isn't nearly as low as Joel James', but it is definitely time to buy.
When Johnson was seeing regular minutes as a freshman, he was easily the most efficient scorer on the squad. He was also the most effective player in the post—even with his wiry, 187-pound frame.
It helps to have a quick release in that situation, and Johnson may be as fast as any post at this level with the catch-and-shoot. Before the defender can react, Johnson has already secured the feed, spun around and dropped a fade in his face.
He is deadly with the ball in his hands.
Johnson's game wasn't complete, though. He seemed to have a little trouble adjusting to the hedge-and-recover scheme on defense, having played zone throughout his prep days. His reaction time was a little slow, and that is to be expected—in any sport—when players have to think.
With more time in the system, Johnson's reaction time should improve. That will result in a lot more blocked shots than last season. He finished with 19 as a freshman, which was second only to Desmond Hubert's 30.
James Michael McAdoo will stand in the way of Johnson's minutes, but his improvement will be obvious. Expect his stock to take off heading into his junior campaign.
3. Marcus Paige: Stock Up
Carolina fans know Marcus Paige's stock was seeing a steady rise down the final stretch of the 2012-13 season. You can expect that trend to continue into 2013-14.
Don't be surprised when you see a massive spike around November, either.
Paige his a highly intelligent, level-headed point guard with an insatiable appetite for improvement. He passed up taking the summer off so he could take extra courses, work one-on-one with strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian and with some of the Tar Heels' best former point guards.
Paige played against some great points as a freshman, but he never went up against the likes of Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson or Kendall Marshall. That should be a learning experience that will pay off big time on both ends of the floor.
The rising sophomore has also put on an extra 14 pounds of beef over the summer, and he is hoping to reach his personal goal of 175 pounds. That should help him push through screens and become a little more physical on both ends of the floor.
Paige still has a long way to go in gaining weight and strength, but what he has accomplished this summer is a great start.
Paige is a much better shooter and floor general than he was perceived to be last season. Folks will find out how impressive he really is with a fresh start as a sophomore.
Paige's stock will be on a steady climb throughout the season.
2. James Michael McAdoo: Stock Up
James Michael McAdoo's stock saw a massive drop during the 2012-13 season. Fortunately for the buyers out there, his stock plummeted enough to make the investment worthwhile.
McAdoo has so much potential, but he allowed the hype to get in his head last season. He wasn't prepared for the competition he would face as a full-time starter. He didn't realize how much a player's weaknesses can be exposed through a full season of work.
He's currently working on developing more of a post game to go with his turnaround jumper. That should force him to settle down and assess the situation. Too often, he was bull-rushing the basket as soon as he got the rock, no matter how many people were defending the paint.
That resulted in a team-leading 96 turnovers and a shooting percentage of 44.5. Just adding more of a post game should go a long way in erasing his deficiencies.
If he can knock down his free throws as a junior and become more physical on both ends of the floor, we will see an entirely different McAdoo.
Perhaps he will be the guy so many people expected to see in 2012-13. The doubts will be gone, and McAdoo's stock could reach an all-time high.
1. P.J. Hairston: Stock Down
P.J. Hairston's stock went through the roof last season, as far as most Carolina fans are concerned. He may not have gotten a lot of attention on that national level, but everyone who watched the Tar Heels could see what he brought to the game.
And that was before he even started a game.
Hairston's fire and emotion was contagious every time he stepped on the floor. He didn't even have to be a scorer for the team to ignite.
But score, he did.
Even with just 14 starts and a season average of 23.6 minutes, Hairston led all scorers with 14.6 points per contest. As a starter, he averaged 18 points.
He got it done in other areas, too. He averaged 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He was also the second-best three-point threat on the squad at 39.6 percent.
All of that, and he still had room for improvement.
Hairston was to spend the summer developing his mid-range game and becoming more selective with his shots. Instead, his summer has turned into a complete disaster off the court.
Hairston was busted for driving without a license and possessing marijuana in early June. The charges have since been dismissed, but the story isn't over yet.
There was a rental car Hairston was driving, but it wasn't under his name. He was also busted for speeding the month prior in a different rental car.
Was he borrowing these from friends? Or was someone giving Hairston improper benefits?
You can bet those answers won't come in a timely fashion. The NCAA will never be accused of being swift with their investigations.
Just when we thought matters couldn't get worse, Hairston was busted for speeding once again on June 28. The ticket was for 93 in a 65 mph zone.
A surprising amount of Tar Heels fans have stayed locked to P.J. Hairston's side this summer. But with this last incident, fans may begin to wonder if Hairston even wants to play.
The only way he can possibly earn the respect of these fans again is speaking out in public and getting it done on the hardwood. But he may have just taken away any hope for the latter.
UPDATE: Monday, July 29, at 8:19 a.m. EST by Rollin Yeatts
UNC announced his indefinite suspension on Sunday night.
---End of update---
P.J. Hairston's stock couldn't possibly get lower right now. What's worse, is it has nothing to do with his skill.
And that's just a damn shame.