After Dirk Nowitzki suffered an injury that put him out for 25 games last season, former Tar Heel Harrison Barnes became a major offensive leader for the Dallas Mavericks last season, averaging 35.5 minutes, 19.2 points and five rebounds per game.
In the first four games of this season, though, Barnes hasn’t been the same tempo-setter he was for the Mavericks last season. In his team's 0-4 start, Barnes' points per game has dropped to 16.3 after a 133-103 loss to his former team, the Golden State Warriors. He was 6-for-15 with just 13 points, going 0-3 on three-pointers and only 1-3 from the free throw line.
Only time will tell if Barnes can be the same impact player in the NBA that he was for the Tar Heels. But with his minutes and shots per game mimicking his numbers from last year, Barnes certainly will have the chances to eventually be the same statistical leader for the Mavericks like he was in the 2016-17 season.
UNC alumni have also been thrust into leadership roles on the gridiron. Because the Chicago Bears' recent seasons have been defined by shaky quarterback play — and tenured quarterback Jay Cutler has been released from the Bears' roster — former Tar Heel Mitchell Trubisky is on the verge of establishing himself as an offensive leader for the Bears.
Trubisky, the second pick in the 2017 NFL draft, is familiar with being brought into a leadership role shaped by a former player. At UNC, Trubisky started his career behind Marquise Williams. But as a junior, Trubisky fully took over the position and started all 13 games, throwing for 3,748 yards, 30 touchdowns and six interceptions.