When news broke yesterday that junior forward James Michael McAdoo was forgoing his final season of eligibility and declaring for the NBA Draft, there was a lot of anger and confusion among North Carolina fans. Why now? Why not return for one more year? It seemed obvious on the surface. He’s not projected to be a first round pick in most mock drafts, so why leave when he could stay and improve his chances? It’s easy for fans to say that because they’re not in his shoes, but things are never that simple. Even though his decision could be viewed as impulsive and ill advised, that doesn’t mean that it actually is. Here are a few of the reasons why McAdoo might not be returning next season-
1) He Spoke With Some NBA Teams/Agents and Got Some Encouraging News
This is not outside of the realm of possibility. North Carolina has had 104 players drafted into the NBA since the league started holding the event in 1947, so it’s safe to say that the school has the connections to get sound advice. While McAdoo has been projected as a fringe first round to second round pick all season, teams often draft players based on need (as opposed to best available). Perhaps there are a few teams out there that like McAdoo’s particular skill set and think that he would be a good asset to their team? Sure, his production has been disappointing if you compare it to the unrealistic expectations he faced when he came to Chapel Hill three years ago, but the fact is that McAdoo is still a fundamentally sound player with good character who is constantly improving. Even though his college career didn’t work out as he’d probably planned, the growth that McAdoo has seen as both a player and a person is evident. While his numbers are very similar from last season to this one (14.4ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.5spg in 2012-2013 to 14.2ppg, 6.8rpg, 1.3spg in 2013-2014), it’s the intangibles that tell you that he’s gotten better. In his first two years, McAdoo seemed distant at times like he was going through the motions. Not quite mechanical like former Carolina forward Harrison Barnes, but just like he wasn’t entirely engaged. That changed this season. Even though he never became the star that many wanted, perhaps he became the best player that he could be, and it’s possible that there are teams out there looking for someone exactly like him.
2) He Feels That His Draft Stock Will Only Fall Further
After limited, but productive, minutes during his freshman season, McAdoo was projected to be a lottery pick in the Draft. Instead of leaving for guaranteed millions, he chose to return to school and ended up staying two more seasons. Upon his return however, he watched his Draft stock fall further and further each year, making it a legitimate concern that he could even go undrafted at some point. Many wonder if he made a mistake in 2012. Should he have left after only one year? Looking back, it’s hard to say. Perhaps McAdoo was better served working on his game in a more familiar and less demanding setting (yes, college basketball is demanding, but there are not 82 games) where his true skill set could be revealed. Maybe he just isn’t first round material and that’s okay. The smart player thinks about career longevity, not making quick money. By staying in school and letting teams see what his true value is, McAdoo gave himself a better chance of being chosen by the right team. One that wants him, not for his potential, but for the player that he actually is and the contribution he can make to the locker room. It just doesn’t make any financial sense for NBA teams to draft players based off of ‘potential’ alone because guys change so much in their late teens/early twenties. If McAdoo had left early, he might have collapsed under the heavy expectations of being a ‘star’ based off of his draft position. Now he can continue to grow into the solid role player that he is capable of being.
3) He Was Worried About Playing Time at Carolina Next Year/He Was Pushed Out
This is the least likely scenario of them all. Sure, North Carolina is bringing in the #3 recruiting class in the nation, led by McDonald’s All American Co-MVP Justin Jackson (an award he shared with future Duke foe Jahlil Okafor), but such a move would be extremely uncharacteristic for both Coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels. Williams is often called out for encouraging players to stay when many people think they SHOULD leave, so it’s hard to believe that he would MAKE someone leave who wanted to stay. He was blindsided by the early departure of Reggie Bullock last season, broken up by the PJ Hairston drama and is seen as loyal to a fault, regularly starting less talented upperclassmen over talented freshmen. So no, McAdoo was not pushed out. But was he worried about playing time? Again, probably not, but maybe. Even without McAdoo, the Tar Heels will have a huge collection of players at the forward position in 2014-2015-
– Jackson Simmons (Senior) – Desmond Hubert (Senior)
– Brice Johnson (Junior) – Joel James (Junior)
– JP Tokoto (Junior) – Kennedy Meeks (Sophomore)
– Isaiah Hicks (Sophomore) – Justin Jackson (Freshman)
– Theo Pinson (Freshman)
McAdoo would certainly have had a starting role, but the minutes for Jackson, Hicks and Pinson would have had to come from somewhere- they’re just too talented not to play. While, Simmons, Hubert and James will continue their supporting roles, and Tokoto and Meeks will likely start again, the amount of bodies at the big man position has continued to add up. Perhaps, especially with all of the questions about his skills after falling down the Draft board the last few years, McAdoo just thought that staying was too risky? It’s not hard to imagine and maybe, it’s the best decision for both parties.
4) None of the Above
All of this speculation could be completely off-base, and that’s okay. It’s McAdoo’s decision and his alone. Our opinion doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he’s happy, and I wish him the best. He was a great player, a good teammate and has a bright future no matter what he does. Tar Heel Nation will miss him next year, but I look forward to following his career in the NBA for the years to come. If I were to speculate one more time, I’d say that he’ll surprise us. He may never be an NBA star, but I think he’ll do well. The Tar Heels will too, returning a veteran team for the first time in years. Look for Carolina to have a very legitimate chance of cutting down the nets next April.
PG- Joel Berry-Nate Britt-Luke Davis-Stillman White (?)
G/F- Marcus Paige-Justin Jackson
F- JP Tokoto-Theo Pinson-Desmond Hubert
F- Brice Johnson-Isaiah Hicks-Jackson Simmons
C/F- Kennedy Meeks- Joel James