As the Tar Heels still celebrate their 2017 National Championship, their starting lineup for next season is beginning to take shape.
After quick deliberations, Joel Berry and Theo Pinson both decided to return to school, despite announcing their intentions to test the professional waters.
The Heels lost Justin Jackson, who declared for the draft with an agent.
Lastly, the Heels await the decision of freshman big man Tony Bradley, who received an invite to the NBA combine this month. He will have ten days after that to come up with a decision.
Point Guard: Joel Berry II
Should he remain fully healthy, there is no reason Berry can not average 17+ points per game. Berry could have a season like Justin Jackson, and perhaps find himself back in the first round discussion!
Shooting Guard: Jalek Felton
This position could go one of two ways.
On one hand, there is the 6’4 guard Kenny Williams who would normally be the favorite to start here.
But on the other, there is a super talented freshman guard coming into UNC, with the opportunity to contribute immediately.
Jalek Felton committed early on in the process, and never really strayed too far from the flock. His uncle is former Tar Heel Raymond Felton, and the younger Felton has just as much talent.
Felton has a little bit of De’Aaron Fox in him. The rising freshman has lightning speed, great athleticism, and he is a great finisher.
With the perceived recruiting issues at Carolina, Felton has an opportunity to be one of the rare one-and-done players at UNC.
Should Roy Williams hand Felton the keys, he and Berry could potentially have a Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright season in the backcourt.
Felton will have to go through a battle with soon-to-be junior Kenny Williams. Felton’s offense is better than Williams’. But Williams can bring more on the defensive end.
Watching the battle throughout the fall should be fun, but I believe Felton will win out, and crack the starting lineup.
Small Forward: Theo Pinson
Barring any injury, Theo Pinson is basically a lock to finally begin the season as a starter.
Pinson briefly had his name in the running for the NBA Draft, but after not receiving an invite to the NBA Combine, Pinson decided to return for his senior year.
Pinson was inserted into the starting lineup following the injury to Kenny Williams this season and did excellent in that time. His worth to this team is unmeasurable, seeing how Pinson does all the little things for the Heels.
Allowing Pinson to start at the three spot gives the Heels maximum flexibility. It gives them defensive versatility, allowing Pinson to switch on all screens.
But on offense, having Pinson out there with Felton and Berry gives Carolina three ball handlers on the court.
By no means am I comparing this Heels team to the Golden State Warriors, but with these three, it could be a “Death Lineup” situation for big opponents. Especially should Pinson develop a three-point shot.
Just imagining a full season of Theo Pinson in the starting lineup is awesome. He makes the team better in so many ways.
Plus, Pinson deserves the opportunity to show scouts how great he can be at full health for a full season.
A backcourt of Berry and Felton, with Pinson at the three, could make this upcoming season all sorts of fun.