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Adam Gold

Time will reveal whether McAdoo's decision is right

Posted April 4

North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo during the Tar Heels' game versus Duke on Saturday, March 8, 2014 in Durham, NC.  Duke defeated the Tar Heels 93-81.

Two years ago, James Michael McAdoo was thought to be a sure-fire NBA Draft lottery pick. Coming off the bench for a North Carolina team with Final Four aspirations, McAdoo averaged roughly six points and four rebounds per game on a team with Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Kendall Marshall, all first-round draft picks after that season.

At 6-foot-9 and a chiseled 220 pounds, the highly-touted prospect from Norfolk was a smooth offensive player around the basket, showed a developed mid-range jump shot, was an effective rebounder and – thanks to his quickness – was also a capable defender.

Most mock drafts that were spit out after the Heels' NCAA Tournament came to an end listed McAdoo in the top 10 despite the fact that he played less than 16 minutes per game.

Considering that Zeller was a senior coupled with the expectation that Barnes and Henson would each give up their remaining eligibility to enter the draft, McAdoo's decision to return to North Carolina for his sophomore season was met with about a million huzzahs.

No one would have been shocked had he opted to leave, even with such modest statistical production, because most fans understand that it's hard for players to pass up high, first-round money and the financial security – at least in the short term – that it provides. However, McAdoo had just seemingly scratched the proverbial surface of his ability and seemed destined to be one of the very best players in the ACC and the nation.

Man, that seems like a lot longer than two years ago!

Today, McAdoo's stock is a lot more Blackberry than Apple. The three major entities that predict NBA Draft positioning have James Michael anywhere from the middle of the second to almost out of the 60-player draft entirely. That's not to say that he's useless as a player. I know several people who still view their Blackberry fondly. However, over time, Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy have eclipsed it in market share and gadgetry.

That's probably the best way to view McAdoo as an NBA prospect. While initially thought to have a very high ceiling, time has shown that his overall game – while still very solid – has some limitations. Such is the danger in allowing the professionals three full seasons of evaluation. All of this calls into question the decision to return for his sophomore season in the spring of 2012.

While I would caution you to understand that mock drafts differ from actual drafts, mostly because teams will not draft anyone in the upper reaches of the first round without first seeing them up close and personal.

Players are brought in for individual and group workouts with similar types of players. Each is judged on a variety of skills, ranging from one-on-one ability to competitiveness, and those sessions can have a drastic impact on draft position. However, with such a limited sample of game-action from which to study McAdoo's pros and cons, the NBA might have been more inclined to guess at his potential.

Seventy games later, a lot has changed.

McAdoo has given scouts about 2,100 minutes of additional game tape to study. And while most of the positive reviews of his game remain, i.e. the mid-range offense, rebounding and defensive ability, the more they've seen, the more they feel that McAdoo is a "tweener."

In other words, he's too small to be a power forward and not skilled enough with the ball to play on the wing. In short, after three years of study, the scouts have determined that he's a player without a real position. If McAdoo had shooting range out to the 3-point line it would be a different story, but he's never even converted a long-range jump shot at the college distance, let alone drift back a few more feet to the NBA line.

Therein lies the dilemma for many of today's basketball stars. Leave before you're ready to play with grown men and risk finding yourself lost on the bench and potentially out of the league without ever earning the much larger, second contract. Or, stick around in school and watch other prospects – many of whom are in exactly the same position as you were 24 months ago – pass you on "big boards" across the league.

While this all sounds as though I'm making the argument that McAdoo should have entered the draft two years ago, I'm merely pointing out the facts behind what has happened to him – and others over the years since the NBA instituted the rookie wage scale in 1994. Considering his status today, I'd actually argue that James Michael would be better off playing his senior year at North Carolina since he has everything to gain and nearly nothing to lose. The reality is that it would be nearly impossible to do any further damage to his draft "stock."

With all of that said, once you're in the league it's impossible to hide what you really are as a player, and the more mature you are when you arrive the better off you'll be in the long run. I've always viewed this as the difference between having a career as opposed to having a contract.

If you're good enough, the goal should be a long stay in the NBA. If you're not, then go and get paid before they figure it all out.

Maybe McAdoo should have made the move two years ago. Maybe he should have stuck it out one more season. Maybe he's making the right decision because this is who he is as a player and that isn't ever going to change.

Either way, McAdoo's future is ahead of him and the good thing about it is that if he's good enough to stick in the league that's where he'll be. If not, there are a lot of places to play ball and earn a living.

I know enough people who love their Blackberry to understand that much.

20 Comments

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  • natsfan1965 Apr 7, 5:50 p.m.

    McAdoo was a decent college player. His skill set, or lack there of in many areas, doesn't translate well to the NBA. He isn't a good perimeter shooter, nor a great defender. Awful at the free throw line as well. Scores well inside but doesn't have the size or strength to be an impactful NBA prospect. I will not be shocked if he doesn't get drafted

  • acdc1104 Apr 5, 12:03 a.m.

    Has anybody considered the fact that JMM may have made his smartest decision since not leaving after his Freshman year. He played out of position as a Sophomore and had a decent season this year if he hadn't had to step up to the Free throw line. Next year, JMM would have to share minutes with Kennedy Meeks, Bryce Johnson, Desmond Hubert, Joel James, Isaiah Hicks, Jackson Simmons, Justin Jackson(incoming), and Theo Pinson(incoming). His talents may have been as showcased as they are going to get after this, his Junior season. In other words he may have been COMPETING just for playing time next year. His defense and experience would have been a luxury to have next year, but not sure his offense is going to be missed at all. So, he may have been looking at the equation from a whole different angle.

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Apr 4, 8:45 p.m.

    The dagger would be if Big Baby or Paige were to leave...especially Paige. I swear the would... View More

    — Posted by Gatsby

    I can't argue that Paige won more than a few games for the Heels, and without him, the Heels would have a lot more in the "L" column.

    I think McAdoo could have improved his game next year, but he is what he is, and his draft stock may be determined more by who else is in the draft than what he would be able to do to improve his game with one more year in school.

    Carolina has a lot of talent coming in next year, but JMM brought experience, and that can be invaluable in close games.

  • vt94hokies Apr 4, 7:07 p.m.

    I only read the stats unlike some on here. His stat's gave him just enough to barely make the 2nd team in the ACC. He had some great games at UNC. Some were weak; too. He should have come back, but it's too late now. His ego just got in the way of what his projection professionals believe. Still. I wish him the best. His shooting isn't much folks. I see him playing over-seas. Best guess.

  • vt94hokies Apr 4, 6:40 p.m.

    He could be the mid second round or later. He will not make that much until his has fire in his belly. He only showed it at times up there. It's about heart for those that ever played anything.

  • Big Mike Apr 4, 5:10 p.m.

    Wrong McAdoo...Bob was automatic. for the NBA. Michael will learn to eat a lot of leather if he signs up...that is if anyone will take him. I say stay and grow with the Heels. Smack down is not a good thing!

  • TheConundrum Apr 4, 4:50 p.m.

    Roy's coaching certainly didn't help him. Seems his skills regressed.

    — Posted by KT dislikes welchers

    I can't agree with you more. I think under another system he'd flourish. He would have developed a jump shot, made some free throws, etc etc. That's my concern about UNC's basketball future. Not that I want any more one and dones but those who may be good NBA prospects may steer clear of UNC. We haven't had any dominant players enter the NBA in a while...but I still think Barnes will eventually be one. Lawson seems to be our best NBA player in the past decade.

  • Objective Scientist Apr 4, 4:18 p.m.

    Would ANYONE disagree with the title of this article? Sports writers so very blatantly state the obvious... as in this case. Short of having a future-seeing "crystal ball"... of course, the only way - ONLY WAY - any of us will ever know if McAdoo's decision was the "right one" is to see how it plays out over time. Do sports writers actually get paid to write such obvious stuff?

    That question raised... history seems to indicate that as soon as a collegiate basketball player is reasonably certain of being drafted in the first round... he should go, Go, GO! Even at the end of his freshman year, with regard to his financial future... he should go!!! Stay past that point... your stock could go up or down. Weighing relative probability of going up, if you are already likely a first round pick even low first round, and the risk of dropping into the second round or out of the draft totally... consider how much one stands to gain vs how much may be lost... the needle stops on GO! GO! GO!

  • Wheelman Apr 4, 3:57 p.m.

    One thing that no one seems to be pointing out is that he was not a starter for most of the Freshman season, and he played center for his Sophomore season, which is out of his natural position at the 4 spot. So from a developmental standpoint he has only had one full season at the position where he is best suited. While another year in college might raise his draft stock, it may also make no difference. In the pros he will have more opportunity to concentrate on improving at that 4 spot whether it's in the NBA or in the D-league. The rosters and position you are selected to play are a bit different in the pros versus the college ranks. In college, if someone gets hurt, then you may have to play out of position because they don't have anyone else on the bench. In the pros, they just go out and find someone who plays that position. We'll have to see what the pros think about his potential. I'm sure Roy has talked to some folks in the pros for him.

  • dave437 Apr 4, 3:39 p.m.

    this kid is softer than Charmin. no matter how long he delays entering the draft, the NBA has already figured that out.

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