The University of North Carolina has provided basketball fanatics with some of the best to ever play the NBA game, and to many the best to ever play the game in Michael Jordan. The likes of Rasheed Wallace, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, and Jerry Stackhouse have followed and James Worthy spent time as a Tar Heel before joining the NBA. And at the moment, Roy Williams is still pumping out NBA talent. It has been a while since we have been supplied with a surefire All Star, but the Dallas Mavericks' Harrison Barnes is making his case after a stay in Golden State that involved winning a NBA Championship.
UNC currently has 14 former players that have logged NBA minutes in 2016-2017 and a fifteenth in former point guard Kendall Marshall, who is again journeying through the NBA D-League in efforts to make another NBA roster. Along with Marshall, there are other form Tar Heels who have been trying to find their spot in the NBA game, and have been journeying to and from the bench, team to team, or D-League to NBA in efforts to one day find a permanent home in an NBA rotation.
Although the line may be thin on who lands one what side of our list, we will take a look at these players lobbying for NBA minutes and the ones who are continuing to impact the league in a positive way to distinguish the eight best and seven worst Tar Heels in the NBA today.
15 Best - Wayne Ellington
Ellington played three years at North Carolina before entering the 2009 NBA Draft, where he would be selected near the end of the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Since then, he has played for seven teams in eight NBA seasons, but in 2016-2017, Ellington may be enjoying his most successful season as a pro, on a Miami Heat team that is looking forward to a unexpected playoff appearance. Now playing the role of a veteran shooter, Ellington is hoisting 6.5 three point shots per game and connecting on 2.5. He is averaging a career-high 10.9 points and is looking to average more than 25 minutes for the second time in his career. His wing presence offers him chances at staying around and playing productive minutes in the NBA.
14 Worst - Brandan Wright
Brandan Wright spent one year at the University of North Carolina where he earned second team All-ACC and ACC Rookie of the Year honors. This was enough for the Charlotte Bobcats to use their eighth overall pick on Wright, and also enough for the Warriors to send Jason Richardson to Charlotte in exchange for the youngster. Wright did see his minutes per game shoot up from 9.9 his rookie year to 17.6 in his second, but a shoulder injury would cut that campaign short and also force him to miss the entire 2009-10 season. Wright is currently on his sixth NBA team in nine seasons, and yes yet to crack better season marks of 9.1 points per game or 4.9 rebounds per game.
13 Best - John Henson
Henson was a two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year during his three-year stay at North Carolina. Since then, Henson has played well enough for the Milwaukee Bucks to land on the Best side of this list, and one day may take his defensive presence to the next level to move up on the good side. Henson enjoyed career-highs in 2013-14 when he averaged 11.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 26.5 minutes per game. In 2014-15 he averaged better than two blocks per game. He is still in a backup role, averaging 19.6 minutes for a Milwaukee Bucks team that is poised to make the playoffs, which will be Henson's third trip to the post season. Prior to the 2015-2016 season, Henson and the Bucks agreed to a four-year $45 million contract.
12 Worst - Tyler Zeller
Zeller spent four years at North Carolina, earning 2012 ACC Player of the Year and making second team All-American, and helping the Tar Heels to the 2009 NCAA Championship. The Dallas Mavericks used the 17th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft on Zeller before trading him to the Cleveland Cavaliers ,where he spent the first two years of his career, making second team All-Rookie Team along the way. After averaging more than 10 points and 5.7 rebounds his first year in Boston, Zeller has taken a back seat and has filled a backup role, now seeing just 10.4 minutes per contest, albeit with a very good Boston Celtics team.
Zeller's career has been pushed to the end of the bench, but he may be the Tar Heel on this list most likely to make a deep playoff run in 2016-2017.
11 Best - Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson's career has taken fans, teammates, and owners on a roller coaster ride. Mostly halted by personal problems with alcohol, Lawson went from a thriving young point guard on the brink of All-Star appearances to playing for three teams in the last two years. It once again seems like Lawson has his head on straight and is looking to revive a promising start to his career with the Sacramento Kings. He is playing his most minutes per game since leaving Denver unceremoniously, and will look to become the reliable guard that he showed while with the Nuggets, when he averaged his career highs of 17.6 points (2013-14), 9.6 assists (2014-15), 3.7 rebounds (2011-12), and 1.6 steals (2013-14).
10 Worst - Ed Davis
During his freshman year, Davis helped North Carolina to the 2009 NCAA Championship while earning All-Freshman Team honors. He came back for his sophomore season but suffered a season-ending injury and declared for the draft following the season. The Raptors used their 13th overall pick on Ed Davis in hopes he could team with Chris Bosh in the post. After two and a half seasons in Toronto, Davis was dealt to Memphis. After a stop with the Lakers, Ed Davis is currently averaging 17.2 minutes per game for the Portland Trail Blazers. He sports career averages of 6.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks. Maybe one more season at North Carolina could have propelled his NBA career into something more than a deep role player who was once a NBA lottery pick.
9 Best - Raymond Felton
A member of that great 2005 North Carolina NCAA Championship team, Felton, with some competition from Marvin Williams, has put together arguably the best NBA career of the group. The Charlotte Bobcats used their fifth overall pick on Felton, and he responded with a NBA All Rookie Second Team. He spent his first five seasons in Charlotte averaging 13.3 points, 6.4 assists and 1.4 steals. He remains top 10 in almost every major statistical category for the Charlotte franchise, including second all time in assists. Following his fifth season he would sign with the New York Knicks, and traded to the Denver Nuggets just 54 games into his first season in New York. Despite, he averaged a career high 15.5 points for the season.
8 Worst - Brice Johnson
Brice Johnson has had the least time to claim a spot on the flip side of this list, but due to injuries and stints of D-League play, Johnson has not fulfilled his promise in the NBA as of yet. The Clippers made Johnson the 25th overall pick in last year's draft after his senior season at North Carolina, where his Tar Heels fell to Villanova in the NCAA Championship. Thus far in his NBA career, Johnson has appeared in just two NBA games with the Clippers, playing seven minutes total and scoring two points.
It is entirely too soon to count Brice Johnson out as an NBA player. For now he is spending his time improving with the Salt Lake City Stars of the NBA D-League.
7 Best - Marvin Williams
Another member of the 2005 NCAA Championship team, Williams was the first player selected from that Tar Heels team, going second overall to the Atlanta Hawks. His versatility and wingspan became appealing to NBA teams leading up to the NBA Draft. After averaging 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds during his rookie year, Williams was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. He would go on to play his first seven seasons with the Hawks, posting career numbers of 11.5 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and 30.4 minutes per contest. Since his departure, Williams spent time in Utah and is currently a member of the Charlotte Hornets, where he is still averaging over 30 minutes per night. Williams is looking forward to his seventh career post season.
6 Worst - James Michael McAdoo
To start off, James Michael McAdoo declared for the 2014 NBA Draft, and would go undrafted before landing with the Golden State Warriors. In his rookie season, he appeared in 15 games and averaged career highs of 4.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.6 blocks and 9.1 minutes. McAdoo had his first and only career start thus far in his second NBA season.
McAdoo is one of the players on our list with an NBA Championship to his name, having been part of the 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors team. During that year's playoffs, McAdoo appeared in 10 minutes of play scoring four points and adding four rebounds. In 2016-2017 ,McAdoo has appeared in a career-high 43 games so far.
5 Best - Danny Green
Green had one of the more interesting roads leading up to his current role with the San Antonio Spurs. Green was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 46th-overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. A member of the 2009 NCAA Champions, Green appeared in just 20 games with the Cavaliers before being waived. The San Antonio Spurs picked him up and also waived him in 2010. But by the 2011-2012 season, Green had carved out a role and was earning starter minutes, with who would turn out to be the 2014 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs. In 2015 Green earned a four year, $45 million contract to stay with the Spurs. He has gained a reputation of a three-point threat who is a feisty defender.
4 Worst - Reggie Bullock
After scoring 13.9 points her game and showing a niche for knocking down thre- point shots, Bullock was drafted in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. He appeared in 43 games in his rookie year, which has turned out to be a career high to this point in his career. Bullock has been able to connect on just 32 percent of his three point shots for his career, a skill that most felt would be his place in the league. He possesses career numbers of 2.8 points per game, 1.6 rebounds per game, and 0.5 assists per game while playing 10.6 minutes on average. Bullock is in his second season with the Pistons, and is looking to set a career high in minutes per game with 13.4, while also setting career highs in rebounds, points, and field goal attempts.
3 Best - Vince Carter
One could probably give him the number one spot just based on his career numbers alone. But it does say something that he is still the second best former Tar Heel currently playing in the NBA. At age 40, Carter is still contributing on a playoff team. For the Grizzlies he is playing 24.4 minutes per game and contributing 7.9 points and 3 rebounds while shooting 36.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Carter entered the league in 1998 after an All American season at UNC, and went on to play in eight straight NBA All Star Games. Vinsanity has also added All NBA Teams to his credit, and of course there was the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Carter also helped solidify NBA basketball in Canada, having played for the Raptors his first 6+ seasons.
2 Worst - Kendall Marshall
Kendall Marshall actually has not played an NBA minute this year, but he is still playing in the D-League in hopes of returning to an NBA court. Marshall was a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. His rookie season he appeared in 48 games, even starting three. He would end up being traded to the Wizards where he was waived and picked up by a terrible 27-win Lakers team, where he started 45 out of the 54 games he appeared in. He would set career numbers in Los Angeles almost by default, and would go on to stints with the Bucks and the 76ers during their tank mode, where Marshall only managed to appear in 30 games and be out of a job by the 2016-2017 NBA season.
1 Best - Harrison Barnes
After being named Mr. Basketball in 2010, Barnes attended the University of North Carolina for two years. There he earned All-American and All-ACC honors being heading into the 2012 NBA Draft, where he was selected by the Golden State Warriors with the seventh overall pick. That year he picked up NBA All Rookie First Team honors as he averaged 9.2 points and 4.1 rebounds, while starting all 81 games he appeared in. The team made the playoffs his rookie year and in 2014-2015, Barnes started all 82 regular season games for the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. After last year's championship run that saw the Warriors lose in seven games, Barnes signed a massive free agent deal with the Dallas Mavericks to become one of their new franchise center pieces. In his first season as a go-to guy, Barnes is averaging 19.5 points, while attempting a career high 16.6 shots per game, up from his previous career high of 9.6.
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