North Carolina Basketball: 4 Ways Heels Can Spark Offense in 2012-13
How can the North Carolina Tar Heels spark offense after losing 55.2 points per game to the NBA draft?
That's the burning question on everyone's minds in Chapel Hill. The good news is there happens to be plenty of talent waiting in the wings at UNC. The points may just come a little differently than we are accustomed to in the Roy Williams system.
In 2011-12, the starters combined for 64 points per game. Of that, 33.4 points came from the post efforts of Tyler Zeller and John Henson—a whopping 52 percent of their production. That's not only due to the talent of those two bigs, but Coach Williams' scheme is also to work inside out.
Does he have the type of talent to do that now, though?
In their stead are sophomore James Michael McAdoo and freshman Joel James—neither of which has presented much of a game with their back to the basket. That could change with the work they do between now and October, but for now we can't assume that type of scoring ability will be there for the Tar Heels in 2012-13.
There is no doubt in my mind that points will be predicated on the production of the backcourt. And I have listed four areas of focus for the Tar Heels that will guarantee their efficiency on the offensive end.
Aside from feeding the post, another focal point of Roy Williams' system is to get out and run. Whether it's a defensive rebound, a block or a steal, the idea is to get the ball down the court as fast as possible.
With the incredible athleticism of this squad, I feel a good portion of Carolina's points will come from the defensive prowess of these players.
Defensive rebounds will likely be down with the loss of Henson and Zeller, though. Then again, Joel James will get a hefty share, taking up space on the block with his 260-pound frame. James Michael McAdoo hasn't been great at getting position, but his endless motor may make up for that.
Then there is Reggie Bullock, who will be taking over Harrison Barnes' spot at small forward. As a shooting guard, he had 5.1 rebounds per game to Barnes' 5.2. Bullock is the better rebounder.
So even though the Tar Heels lost their top two rebounders, they may crash the boards better than most think. The same could be said of blocks, though Henson's 2.9 per game will be pretty tough to make up.
And even if they can't make up those gaps, this team will have more steals.
James Micheal McAdoo is the first one I look to in that category. In his last seven games of 2011-12, McAdoo averaged 2.1 steals per game over 23 minutes of action. That included back-to-back four-steal games.
Dexter Strickland averaged 1.3 per game, before he went down with the ACL tear. Now he is back and will be a major contributor in that category.
Though some may knock his 6'0" and 160-pound frame, I don't think that will have an affect on Marcus Paige's ability to pick pockets at this level. He averaged 3.1 steal per game in prep, so I think it's safe to say he will have over one per game.
This is a tough, pesky defense Roy WIlliams has brewing in Chapel Hill. You can expect a lot of points in the transition game, which will suck the life out of UNC's opponents.
Few things on the court drive me more insane than a lack of ball movement.
That was one of the issues the Tar Heels faced when Kendall Marshall went down in the tourney. The ball would get stuck on one person, they would try to do to much themselves and take a horrible shot—in turn, stymieing the offense possession after possession.
I understand Roy's theory to use as little time as possible in order to get more possessions. However, that shouldn't mean "feel free to take an ill-advised shot, as long as you don't use too much time."
The ball needs to move in order to get open looks. Not everyone is Michael Jordan, so they shouldn't pretend to be.
On top of that, it's hard for other players to get in a rhythm when the rock doesn't touch their hands.
Ball movement will not only get open shots on the perimeter—where UNC is most likely to shine with their abundance of shooters—but it will also open things up on the inside, giving James and McAdoo more space to work in the paint.
Such a simple strategy can be so hard to implement sometimes. But it must be done this season.
When a team can't just feed the post and let the bigs go to work, it's imperative the backcourt penetrates relentlessly. This falls mostly on the point guard position, which will be covered by Marcus Paige and Dexter Strickland.
We already know Dex would rather take it to the hole than take an outside shot—and he is pretty darn good at it. Paige likes to penetrate, too, but he has much more outside game and it could be tempting for the young freshman to use it.
The reason that penetration is so important is because it draws defenders to the ball and the driver can dish it to one of the inside men for an open dunk or kick it out to the wing for a trey.
If you go back to last year, Marshall didn't always drive, making it harder to get things going on offense. Later in the season, he started pushing the ball into the paint, getting layups and dishing to open men.
From then on, the offense became much more efficient and started to dominate.
Just another simple strategy.
As I said earlier, the rebounds may be down this year. But that's more reason to make offensive rebounding a point of focus in 2012-13.
In 2011-12, Tyler Zeller accounted for 3.8 offensive rebounds per game, and John Henson added another 2.5. Zeller's average is pretty impressive, and I have a hard time believing it will be matched.
Nonetheless, offensive rebounds will be very important—especially in terms of put-backs.
This, of course, will mostly fall on the shoulders of post men Joel James and James Michael McAdoo. That's where a lot of James' offense came from in prep, and it may actually be one of the best aspects of his game at this point.
We also saw McAdoo come flying in out of nowhere to slam home a rebound or two last season. Again, I'm not completely sold on McAdoo as a rebounder, but his athleticism and endless motor will allow him to get opportunities to score.
In the end, if they implement the first three strategies I laid out, this one is pretty much a wash. The points will be up and so will the shooting percentage. Therefore, offensive rebounds won't be "needed" as much as they have been in the past.
In three months we'll see if anyone listens to me.