Which UNC players have played their ways into the NBA first-round conversation?


As UNC gears up for the home stretch, the last thing on Roy Williams’ mind is what his underclassmen will do after the season.

Fans, rivals and members of the media, however, can’t help but ponder the potential makeup of the 2017-18 Tar Heels. What happens with UNC’s top two scorers — juniors Justin Jackson and Joel Berry — will shape opinion on the Tar Heels’ preseason prospects.

CBS Sports’s Gary Parrish has one of the highest opinions of Jackson among 2017 NBA Draft prognosticators, placing him at No. 18. Parrish alludes to Jackson’s three-point shooting, which he says “is helping him with NBA executives.”

Jackson is second in the ACC, behind only Syracuse’s Andrew White, in made three-pointers. He also ranks in the top 10 in three-point percentage (39.5). The junior is tied with NCSU’s Dennis Smith Jr. for fifth in the league in scoring at 18.7 points per game.

Sports Illustrated projects Jackson to go No. 25 overall.

Another outlet, NBADraft.net, projects Jackson to go No. 28 overall. DraftExpress pencils Jackson in as an early second-rounder.

Despite the likely loss of Jackson, however, Williams shouldn’t have to worry about a mass exodus of underclass talent this spring.

Two other UNC players who might test the NBA waters, point guard Joel Berry and center Tony Bradley, aren’t first-round projections. In the past, Williams has advised underclassmen to return to school if they’re out of the conversation for a guaranteed contract that comes with a first-round selection.

Conventional wisdom suggests Bradley will to return to UNC, become a sophomore starter and play his way into a higher projection in 2018.

DraftExpress lists Berry at No. 58. The point guard ranks in the top 20 in the ACC in scoring and is in the top 10 in free-throw percentage, steals, made three-pointers and three-point percentage.