CHAPEL HILL — For the second time in school history, North Carolina will have four players selected in the first round of the NBA draft on Thursday night. That much is a certainty. The only questions, of course, are when Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller will be chosen, and by whom.
In 2005, the Tar Heels foursome of Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants were selected among the first 14 picks. Its possible, perhaps even likely, that UNCs current foursome equals that feat or beats it.
Barnes, Henson, Marshall and Zeller and not necessarily in that order are projected as probable lottery picks. Barnes, who arrived at UNC amid considerable expectation, has been projected as high as the Charlotte Bobcats selection with the No. 2 overall pick. Henson, Marshall and Zeller, meanwhile, have all been among the top 10 in some experts mock drafts.
To gain a better understanding of how NBA player personnel executives has evaluated each player approaching the draft, The News & Observer recently spoke with a longtime NBA scout. What follows is the scouts evaluation of foursome that could become a part of draft history Thursday night:
Position: Small forward
2011-12 stats: 17.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, .440 FG, .723 FT• Scouts evaluation: Barnes has good size for the position hes going to play. He shoots the ball [well] hes been inconsistent but I think most people think that hell become more consistent as he continues to develop. Hes a good athlete. Right now he struggles with his ball-handling and you know, thats the one area, probably the most significant area, that people will expect him to improve on. I can also say that defensively, thats going to [have to] be an improvement. Any guy thats going in the NBA, the defense is always something that they have to adjust to. The step up from college to pros is much, much, much more significant than going from high school. And youre playing against guys that are every bit as good or better than you. Thats always a given. Nobodys ever defensively ready.
• Scouts concern: I think improving his ability to utilize the dribble. Thats been a wrap on him. People talk about it. I dont think its a secret. And it really affected him when [Kendall] Marshall went out [with a wrist injury in the NCAA tournament]. It affected him because he wasnt able to get open as easily and get shots as easily.
• Likely draft range: 2 to 5.
2011-12 stats: 13.7 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.3 apg, .500 FG, .511 FT• Scouts evaluation: Henson, his strengths are his left [hand] and his reach, his ability to block shots, affect the game around the basket. I think offensively, I think hes got a chance to be a little better than a lot of people who have seen him expect. Hes pretty good with his little left-handed hook shot. He should be able to develop a right-handed one very similar. His face-up shot has gotten better. Now free-throw shooting is kind of [a weakness], its interesting that his free-throw shooting really hasnt come up as well as you would think. But thats an area hes got to improve on. And then the biggest thing for him is probably just physical development with his body. Hes never going to be 260 pounds, but whatever he weighs, you want it to be solid muscle and everything. I go back so far that [Rocky Mounts] Buck Williams, who played at Maryland years and years ago, you know Buck Williams was an all-pro player, and he played at about 225 pounds as a power forward. And was one of the strongest guys in the league. People who played against him will tell you, he was just like hitting a wall when you hit him because he was just so strong. So its not so much how you weigh, but how you can build up to the muscle and strength.
• Scouts concern: I think Hensons [challenge is] just physical development. When you weigh 215 or 16 pounds or whatever he is, and youre long, anyway, and youre so long and lean and you dont have a good base because of that, youre going to get knocked around a little bit.
• Likely draft range: 7-12
Position: Point guard
2011-12 stats: 8.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 9.8 apg, .467 FG, .696 FT• Scouts evaluation: The great thing about Marshall, I think, is that Kendall Marshall knows who he is. He realizes what he does. Hes a team-first guy, understands his skills, [is] very, very, very unselfish. Im sure he probably gets the most enjoyment out of passing to get a basket as he does making a shot. I think hes going to be an effective shooter when he can get his feet set. Offensively, he has some trouble now of when he catches it, trying to score off the dribble, you know, with the pull-up shot and stuff like that. But there are things that he can develop, going to the basket with little flip shots and tear-drops, they call them, and things like that that make him a little more attractive. The defensive thing is probably going to be more trouble for him, for he and [Tyler] Zeller probably than the other two.
• Scouts concern: Its when people get after him, and force him to play off the dribble and try to take away some of his passing lanes and his vision, and with the 24-second [shot] clock, that goes fast. So sometimes guys have to develop a way to get shots off under pressure. And I think right now thats an area where hed have to work on.
• Likely draft range: 8-15
Position: Power forward/center
2011-12 stats: 16.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.5 bpg, .553 FG, .808 FT• Scouts evaluation: Zeller, the strength of his game is offense. Good touch, he is a good free-throw shooter, and [has a] good little jump-hook. I think everybody in the NBA thinks hell be able to step out and shoot the ball well up to 15 to 18 feet. He obviously runs the court very well, and in addition to running well, hes very willing to run. And thats the [key] sometimes you get guys that can run but they dont want to. I think his problem is going to be in the NBA, the strength and quickness of NBA post players. During his college career, he didnt face a lot of guys that could just overpower him just because they were quicker. And now hes going to be seeing that on a much more regular basis. So thats going to be an adjustment.
• Scouts concern: Well I think the strength thing, even though he weighs a lot more, I think the combination that hes going to be facing stronger, quicker big people on a regular basis will be something that hell have to adjust to. And a lot of this stuff, with physical development, it comes as they get older.
• Likely draft range: 7-12