The Hardwood Blues 2014-15 NCAA Preview Pt. 1: The Tar Heels

Being highly-recruited and playing for a premier program is typically advantageous for a college players’ draft stock, but so has not been the case for North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, and J.P. Tokoto. In Meeks’ case, the reason for being overlooked is obvious: he’s fat as shit. Unless he undergoes an amazing physical transformation, his NBA future is kind of bleak, but he does have upside as a dominating, stocky college center in the mold of Sean May, Mike Sweetney, and Lonny Baxter (all stats Per 40 Minutes).

Kennedy Meeks (Fr.) .548 .586 14.9 1.9 0.8 1.9 18.6
Sean May (Fr.) .472 .575 11.6 1.4 2.2 2.6 16.2
Lonny Baxter (Fr.) .606 .573 10.0 1.6 0.7 0.8 18.7
Mike Sweetney (Fr.) .516 .619 12.3 3.0 1.3 1.2 21.2

Based on the numbers above, it’s hard to rationalize why May, Baxter, and Sweetney were considered lottery prospects while Meeks is a projected late second rounder. I’d like to believe that scouts have wisely shied away from the college bully center (May, Baxter, and Sweetney were egregiously overdrafted busts), but I think he’s just slept on.

Unlike Big Meeks, Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto are a pair of players with terrific physical tools, which makes their sleeper status even more puzzling. Of the three, Johnson has the most traction as a draft prospect but he is still probably underrated. Johnson is the latest in a line of long, springy, defensive-minded Tar Heel big men.

Brice Johnson (So.) .566 .622 12.6 1.8 1.5 2.6 21.2
Brandan Wright (Fr.) .646 .567 9.0 1.5 1.4 2.6 21.5
John Henson (So.) .501 .482 15.1 1.2 0.9 4.8 17.5
Ed Davis (So.) .578 .659 13.7 1.4 0.6 4.0 19.3

Again, it doesn’t make sense that Davis, Henson, and Wright had serious draft buzz and Johnson does not. It could be that players of this ilk are undervalued by nature because they lack flashy offensive skills. Wright and Davis are underrated to this day!

Last but not least is J.P. Tokoto, a hyper-athletic wing with an underrated offensive skill-set. Tokoto’s status as a prospect reminds me of K.J. McDaniels from last year; a player with the kind of athleticism scouts normally drool over, yet next to no draft hype.

J.P. Tokoto (So.) .531 .222 8.1 4.3 2.3 0.7 12.9
Andre Iguodala (So.) .493 .315 10.5 6.1 2.0 0.5 16.5
Brandon Roy (So.) .505 .222 7.0 4.3 1.6 0.5 17.1
Toure’ Murray (So.) .481 .331 6.3 3.9 1.8 0.3 15.1
Terrence Williams (So.) .449 .281 8.5 4.6 1.5 0.8 15.1

Tokoto is likely more Terrence Williams than Iggy, but his all-around stats put him in some interesting company. J.P. faces the same problem that befell many a underrated draft prospect in the past; the kid can’t shoot. I don’t know the success rate of 6’5” players who attempt ~ one three per game (at 22%) and break even on free throws (50%), but it can’t be good. Expect a team that devalues shooting in the draft, perhaps Philly or Orlando, to roll the dice on Tokoto this year or next. I think they will be rewarded.

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