The University of North Carolina has produced basketball players such as Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo, Antawn Jamison, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace. These players, along with many others, have had good, if not great, NBA careers coming out of Chapel Hill.
Despite the fine careers, UNC has produced plenty of NBA Draft busts, players who were simply drafted too high. Some have had mediocre careers, and others fizzled out of the NBA extremely quickly. Some, like Vince Carter, had fine individual careers, but failed to win in the NBA.
Many NBA draft busts from North Carolina have been in recent years, and it is good to see players such as Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson return to school for another year of collegiate ball. After all, just one more year of college could help these players avoid the label of "bust" and help them avoid landing in articles like this one.
After two relatively quiet seasons at Chapel Hill, Hubert Davis emerged as a scoring threat for the Tar Heels. In his senior season, he averaged a team-best 21.4 points per game. Upon seeing what he was capable of, the New York Knicks selected him with the twentieth pick of the 1992 NBA Draft.
His time as a Knick was relatively short-lived, as he only spent four seasons in the blue and orange uniform. His second, third and fourth seasons were all productive, but after he left the Knicks, Davis only averaged double-figures in scoring once more.
While he was a sharpshooter from deep (he led the league in three-point shooting percentage for the 1999-00 season), Davis was capable of having a better all-around career. Although he isn't a huge bust, he could've done a lot more with his talents, but instead was a journeyman in his 12-year career.
UNC Stats: 11.8 PPG, 49.8% Field Goal Shooting, 43.5% Three-Point Shooting, 81.9% Free Throw Shooting
NBA Stats: 8.2 PPG, 45.8% Field Goal Shooting, 44.1% Three-Point Shooting
Tom LaGarde is not a widely-known name. The 6'10" center, however, had a fine career at North Carolina, and was drafted ninth overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 1977 NBA Draft.
His early career had its ups-and-downs, and in 1980-81 he had a career year. For the Dallas Mavericks, he averaged 13.7 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game. The following year, he suffered a calf injury that proved to be detrimental.
LaGarde only played in 48 games after his injury before retiring from basketball. Had he not suffered a devastating injury, his career might've been heading on the right track. Unfortunately, we will never know.
UNC Stats: 9.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 58.3% Field Goal Shooting
NBA Stats: 7.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 46.2% Field Goal Shooting
Mitch Kupchak is one of the most influential people in basketball today...as the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers. Little do many current fans know, he was an All-American at North Carolina in 1976.
The Washington Bullets selected Kupchak thirteenth overall in the 1976 NBA Draft, and he had a fine rookie season, averaging 10.4 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game. After another two solid seasons, his career started spiraling downwards. He averaged single-digit scoring in four of his last six seasons, and he retired after nine years in the NBA.
More notably, Kupchak received an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management in 1987 and has been the Lakers' GM up until today.
UNC Stats: 13.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 58.6% Field Goal Shooting
NBA Stats: 10.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 52.3% Field Goal Shooting
The overarching theme of Marvin Williams's career thus far has been that he was selected before both Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
While Williams is still young, he has yet to prove himself worthy of second overall selection in the 2005 NBA Draft. His stats have been pretty solid, and he has matured, but he has not really found his role as a starter in the Association quite yet.
Williams left North Carolina after just one season of play, and it would be interesting to see how his professional career would've shaped out had he stayed for another year at Chapel Hill.
UNC Stats: 11.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 50.6% Field Goal Shooting, 43.2% Three-Point Shooting, 84.7% Free Throw Shooting
NBA Stats: 11.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 45.2% Field Goal Shooting, 31.1% Three-Point Shooting, 80.8% Free Throw Shooting
It's tough to call someone a bust after just two seasons in the NBA, but Wayne Ellington was the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player in 2009. He has yet to play up to his abilities for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who drafted him with the twenty-eighth pick in 2009.
Ellington hasn't received much playing time yet, so his scoring average is obviously down from college. More concerning, however, is his field goal percentage as a pro, which is a mere 41.4 percent. If he plans on removing the bust label, he will need to improve that number.
The good news for Ellington is that he has his whole career ahead of him.
UNC Stats: 14.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 46.3% Field Goal Shooting
NBA Stats: 6.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 41.4% Field Goal Shooting
Vince Carter has had a great individual career. There is no denying that. His stats as a pro are far better than his stats as a collegian. His failures as a teammate, however, lead me to classify him as a bust in the NBA.
Carter has been an NBA All-Star eight times, and made two All-NBA teams. He also won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in 1999 for the Toronto Raptors, who drafted him fifth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft. Throughout his career, his prolific scoring has been coupled with chronic knee injuries, which have slowed down his aerial attack.
The fact that the 2010 NBA Playoffs were the first time that Carter made the Conference Finals sums up his career as a leader. He has refused to take a true leadership role, and could never lead a team to even the Conference Finals as its go-to player (Dwight Howard on Orlando in 2010).
Carter will be remembered for his dunks, but little else.
UNC Stats: 12.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 54.7% Field Goal Shooting
NBA Stats: 22.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.0 APG, 44.5% Field Goal Shooting
J.R. Reid was an absolute physical specimen. At 6'9" and 247 pounds, he was freakishly athletic, making him a potential force at any given moment. He used these factors to his advantage at UNC, but he could not harness his talents fully in the NBA.
Reid was an All-American for the Tar Heels, and was selected fifth overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1989 NBA Draft. He averaged double-digit scoring in his first three seasons in the pros, but failed to score at such a clip for the rest of his career.
Reid had his bright spots as a pro, but could not find a home as he played for six different teams during the span of his career. If his career stayed on the track that it began on, maybe he could've been a more decorated NBA player.
UNC Stats: 16.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 60.1% Field Goal Shooting
NBA Stats: 8.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 47.2% Field Goal Shooting
Eric Montross, selected ninth overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1994 NBA Draft, was a two-time All-America performer as a Tar Heel. Expectations going into his NBA career were high, and it is safe to say that he did not live up to them.
His first year not in a North Carolina uniform was actually quite solid; he averaged 10.0 points per game to go along with 7.3 rebounds per game. Those numbers were good enough to place him on the NBA All-Rookie second team.
After his first season, however, everything went down hill. Montross would never match the stats that he put up in his inaugural season, and a foot injury cut his career short, one in which he played on six teams in just eight seasons.
UNC Stats: 11.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 58.5% Field Goal Shooting
NBA Stats: 4.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 49.0% Field Goal Shooting
For three years at UNC, Al Wood was an elite scorer. In 1981, he garnered All-America Second Team honors, and won the national championship as well. This scoring-and-winning combination led the Atlanta Hawks to select him fourth overall in the 1981 NBA Draft.
Wood's NBA career was rather peculiar, as he bounced around between four teams in a short six years. His performance fluctuated greatly, and his career was highlighted by a three-year stint in Seattle in which he averaged 13.7 points per game.
After a final season in Dallas, Wood was out of the NBA and out of basketball. His scoring ways at North Carolina never really translated into the NBA, and his time in basketball now lives in anonymity.
UNC Stats: 16.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 56.0% Field Goal Shooting
NBA Stats: 11.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 46.5% Field Goal Shooting
Phil Ford had one of the most decorated careers of any North Carolina Tar Heel ever. He was a lethal scorer, a three-time All-America performer, and in 1978 he won a plethora of player of the year awards, including the John R. Wooden Award.
Ford was picked second overall by the Kansas City Kings in the 1978 NBA Draft, and his first three years were very impressive. He won Rookie of the Year in his first season, and played well enough to get placed on the All-NBA second team.
Ford's first three seasons were not harbingers for the rest of his career: In four more seasons, he never averaged double figures and retired after just seven years as a pro. Although he is the second-leading scorer in UNC history, his professional career did not shape out the way that he likely imagined it would have.
UNC Stats: 18.6 PPG, 52.7% Field Goal Shooting, 80.8% Free Throw Shooting
NBA Stats: 11.6 PPG 6.4 APG, 46.7% Field Goal Shooting, 82.0% Free Throw Shooting
Sean May had an illustrious career at UNC, where he was named an All-American and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2005. After that year, his junior season, he left for the NBA. The Charlotte Bobcats selected him with the thirteenth pick.
May's NBA career has been plagued by injuries, which actually caused him to miss the entire 2007-08 season. When healthy, he was able to play pretty well, but injuries have taken his abilities. Before micro fracture surgery on his right knee, he averaged 10.4 points per game, but since then has only averaged 3.5 points per game.
Currently, May plays professionally in Turkey, and it looks like his NBA days have been cut short.
UNC Stats: 15.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 51.3% Field Goal Shooting
NBA Stats: 6.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 45.8% Field Goal Shooting
"Wingspan" and "potential" are two particularly alarming words to me when the NBA Draft rolls around. It seems that the wingspan hardly ends up doing anything in the NBA (unless your name is Tayshaun Prince), and the potential hardly ever pans out.
I guess the Golden State Warriors weren't as concerned as I was when they traded for Brandan Wright immediately after he was selected eighth overall by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2007 NBA Draft.
Wright only played one year at UNC, where his wingspan (7'4") and ridiculous field goal shooting (64.6%) wowed NBA scouts. He left for the NBA, but he has found little success in the pros. The good news is that he is only 23, but the bad news is that a shoulder injury, which caused him to miss the entire 2009-10 season, will likely keep him from being effective.
UNC Stats: 14.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 64.6% Field Goal Shooting
NBA Stats: 5.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 53.1% Field Goal Shooting
Joe Wolf was a big center for the Tar Heels in the mid-1980s, and during the latter half of his four-year career at UNC, he was a force. He did not meet such success in the NBA.
The Los Angeles Clippers drafted Wolf thirteenth overall in the 1987 NBA Draft. He was so ineffective in the NBA that he shot 42 percent or worse from the field five times during his career. At North Carolina, he was often the most efficient scorer on the floor.
For some, the transition from college to the pros is not so smooth, and Wolf is a perfect example of this.
UNC Stats: 9.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 55.1% Field Goal Shooting
NBA Stats: 4.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 42.3% Field Goal Shooting
It is frustrating to see talent go to waste, but that is exactly what basketball fans have seen from Rashad McCants.
After having an exceptional career at North Carolina, one in which he was an All-American and National Champion, McCants was drafted fourteenth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2005 NBA Draft. He had his ups and downs, but ultimately ended on a complete low, shooting under 30 percent from the field in his last 25 games in the NBA.
If you're questioning what you just read above, it's true: McCants has not played in the NBA since 2009. In the past year, he has played on the Texas Legends, a D-League team, and shortly after went overseas to China.
What McCants is experiencing now is a far stretch away from his time as a Tar Heel.
UNC Stats: 17.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 48.6% Field Goal Shooting, 41.5% Three-Point Shooting
NBA Stats: 10.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 43.1% Field Goal Shooting, 36.8% Three-Point Shooting
Joseph Forte is a perfect fit for a "Where Are They Now?" column.
As just a sophomore at UNC, Forte was an All-American performer, and he declared for the 2001 NBA Draft after two seasons at Chapel Hill. The Boston Celtics selected him twenty-first overall, and he played a total of 25 games in the NBA for the Celtics and Seattle Sonics.
How does someone go from scoring 30 points in a single game in college to scoring 30 points total in an NBA career? A combination of attitude problems and legal issues can do the trick.
Forte currently plays for Tuscany Pistoia, a second-tier team in Italy.
UNC Stats: 18.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 APG
NBA Stats: 1.2 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 0.7 APG, 25 Games Played