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UNC Basketball: 1 Reason Each Starter Will Be a Success in 2014-15

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistJuly 22, 2014

UNC Basketball: 1 Reason Each Starter Will Be a Success in 2014-15

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    The idea of being "successful" is a relative concept, regardless of the situation. It's hard to really put a barometer on what it takes for someone or something to be considered a success, certainly not without clearly defined benchmarks and expectations.

    Yet in the world of sports, success is one of the most commonly argued notions. Teams and players are either successful or they're not, but how we come to that conclusion varies depending on the evaluator.

    In looking ahead to North Carolina's 2014-15 season, we're taking the abstract of success and using it to define the potential performance of each of the Tar Heels' projected starters. Though Carolina's starting lineup won't be set in stone for several months and very well could change throughout the season, we're basing this on the current makeup of the roster and the type of team head coach Roy Williams is most likely put on the court in November and beyond. 

Marcus Paige

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Position: Point guard

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'1", 175 lbs

    Why He Will Be A Success: Better balance

     

    For the most part last season, as Marcus Paige went, so did North Carolina.

    Paige was far and away the Tar Heels' best offensive weapon, but at many times he was also the only one. With the suspensions to P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald to start the 2013-14 season, Paige was the only option as far as a perimeter scorer was concerned, and as a result he attempted and made more three-pointers than the rest of the team combined.

    Paige, who averaged a team-best 17.5 points per game while also dishing out 4.2 assists per contest, ended up taking the team on his shoulders far too often. That can't be the case in 2014-15, and thanks to added help in the backcourt and on the offensive end, it shouldn't happen again.

    Earlier this month Paige met with reporters (via Brian Barbour of TarHeelBlog.com) after a summer workout, and among the topics discussed were ways that he could still be the go-to scorer without having to be the only choice for points. He said that Coach Williams has been implementing several multiple-guard alignments, which would presumably include not only Nate Britt and Joel James but also newcomers Joel Berry and Theo Pinson.

    With the talent UNC should have in the backcourt this season, Paige said the Heels will be "too talented" for him to average 20 points per game.

Theo Pinson

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Position: Shooting guard

    Year: Freshman

    Height, weight: 6'6", 192 lbs

    Why He Will Be A Success: Defensive intensity

     

    Of Carolina's three incoming recruits, Theo Pinson is the one that heads to Chapel Hill without a defined position that he can just slide into. The swingman could be either a shooting guard or a small forward, while Joel Berry is a pure point guard and Justin Jackson has a game that's perfect for the 3 role.

    But what will get Pinson into the rotation right away—and why we think he'll end up starting at the 2—is his prowess for doing something Carolina's guards weren't very adept at in 2013-14: defense.

    Pinson, rated as the No. 15 player in the 2014 recruiting class, was a great scorer in high school in North Carolina. But it was his defense that made him stand out and rise in the rankings, with coaches on the recruiting trail noting how focused he was at being a disruptive force on the other end of the court.

    According to the Associated Press' Aaron Beard, Pinson caught the eye of Indiana coach Tom Crean at one point because of how he'd get his hands into passing lanes to disrupt rhythm. "It can take time off the shot clock," Pinson told the AP. "It can destroy a whole lot of stuff you don't even think about. You focus on stopping the man, but if you get the ball, they can't do nothing with it."

    Nothing pleases coaches—and aggravates opponents—as much as ball hawks and defensive stoppers.

Justin Jackson

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Position: Small forward

    Year: Freshman

    Height, weight: 6'8", 190 lbs

    Why He Will Be A Success: Varied scoring

     

    While Marcus Paige will be the go-to guy on the perimeter and the big boys inside will be doing the banging and bumping to get their points, in the middle will be a player that Bleacher Report's C.J. Moore described as "like a Tayshaun Prince" because of his body type as well as his diverse scoring ability.

    Jackson, the highest-rated of UNC's recruits as the No. 9 player in the 2014 recruiting class, will be successful as a true freshman for his ability to score in many ways. Though his lack of girth might make him seem frail, his length combined with a great mid-range jumper will negate any weight issues on offense.

    And because of that jumper, when defenders get in closer to cut down on the length issue, he's shown during AAU ball and all-star games an ability to get to the rim effectively.

Brice Johnson

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Position: Power forward

    Year: Junior

    Height, weight: 6'9", 210 lbs

    Why He Will Be A Success: Stretching the defense

     

    Of the players projected to start for the first time in 2014-15, Brice Johnson is the one with the biggest shoes to fill. That's because he's in line to replace James Michael McAdoo at the 4.

    While Johnson doesn't have the same thickness that the 6'9", 230-pound McAdoo used to help body up defenders and get to the basket down low, the junior does bring an ability to stretch the defense thanks to his quickness and ability to play well away from the paint.

    Johnson averaged 10.3 points per game in less than 20 minutes a night, shooting an impressive 56.6 percent from the field while not going to the line very much. Instead of forcing his way inside, he used speed and agility to get his points, serving as a great alternative to McAdoo's game.

    With more minutes in his future, Johnson figures to be a success if he can continue the production he had as a super-sub. The key will be avoiding too much contact so that his body doesn't break down.

Kennedy Meeks

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Position: Center

    Year: Sophomore

    Height, weight: 6'9", 280 lbs

    Why He Will Be A Success: Better body control

     

    Kennedy Meeks is a beast, a behemoth of a big man who can outmuscle the best of them.

    He started 17 games last season, but because he was so big he averaged just over 16 minutes per game and picked up a foul every nine minutes or so. For Meeks' sophomore year to be considered a success, he needs to be in better condition and have better control of his body and how he uses it.

    Even with the short amount of time on the court, Meeks managed to score 7.6 points and average 6.1 rebounds per game, so to consider what he's capable of if playing longer is exciting. 

    NBC Sports' Raphielle Johnson said Meeks has dropped as much as 45 pounds since the end of the 2013-14 season. With less to bang around with, Meeks will need to find ways to use what's left in a way that's still physical but also avoids being out of control.

     

    All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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