North Carolina basketball needs a new paint job


North Carolina basketball will look chemically different next season. Yes, several familiar faces will be back in the fold, including star point guard Joel Berry. But for the most part, the roster will look rather dissimilar from those of recent memory. This isn’t a news alert; the departure of Tony Bradley to the NBA signaled that UNC will have to look for offense in different ways next season.

Of course, UNC will run its customary secondary break. Plus, with Cam Johnson in the mix, the team is presented with some nifty options on offense. Roy Williams will need success with early offense and perimeter shooting because his team is parting ways with one of its most effective sources of scoring in recent memory.



Last season, the Tar Heels led the nation in offensive rebounding rate, according to UNC grabbed a ridiculous 41.3 percent of its misses. That’s the second-best rate a Roy Williams-coached team has recorded at North Carolina. The 2007-08 team that won 36 games also ranked No. 1 nationally in offensive rebounding rate: 42.4 percent.

In the 2016-17 season, North Carolina  grabbed at least 50 percent of its own misses on eight occasions. In total, this marked the third straight year UNC posted an offensive rebound rate of at least 40 percent, per KenPom.

Kennedy Meeks was a major part of this success; the senior ranked 10th nationally with an offensive rebound rate of 16.4 percent. Bradley actually had an even better number here — 18.2 percent — but didn’t play enough to qualify.

That’s maddening and exhausting to defend — you guard for 25-30 seconds, force a miss, but then the offensive team gains another possession.


One man’s trash is another man’s treasure

Meeks, Bradley and Isaiah Hicks were absolutely destructive forces on the glass, but that trio did more than just collect boards and kick the ball back out. They knew how to score when given the opportunity — volleyball inside the paint.

That’s a market inefficiency North Carolina took great advantage of with its superior size the last three seasons.

More specifically to the 2017 title team, though, let’s look at how effective those NBA-bound bigs were at scoring following a miss.

OReb RatePut-back FGAPut-back FG%Points per possession
Kennedy Meeks16.4%10560%1.23
Tony Bradley18.2%4753.2%1.20
Isaiah Hicks8.5%3754.1%1.19

That’s really good production, though players are likely to shoot a solid clip after an offensive rebound; a putback attempt occurs close to the basket.

There were only nine players in the ACC this past season to record at least 50 putback possessions. One-third of that group came from North Carolina’s roster: Meeks, Bradley and Hicks. According to Synergy, Bradley drew a shooting foul on 31.8 percent of his putback possessions — No. 1 in the ACC among players with a minimum of 40 possessions.

*Numbers courtesy of Synergy Sports


It’s got to be Maye

Luke Maye was a revelation for North Carolina in his sophomore season, and his range shooting could be a serious boon for the Tar Heels next winter. He may also find success closer to the basket.

Maye is an effective, burrowing rebounder; he grabbed 12.3 percent of his team’s misses when on the floor this past season, according to KenPom; that’s a really good rate. Maye, however, struggled to finish at the hoop, albeit on a smaller sample size.

Per Synergy, Maye went just 11-of-28 (39.3 percent) on putback attempts. He shot under 52 percent on non-post-up plays at the basket — a good, but not great, number.

Three talented freshmen join the roster next season, and UNC will rely more on small-ball shooters in 2018. However, it will be important that Maye becomes more efficient at the basket, too. It’s the best and most obvious way for North Carolin to replace what it’s lost.