In just over 14 minutes per game, he made over half his shot attempts, rebounded like a madman and ran the floor like few 6-foot-11, 240-pound bench players should be allowed to do.
And now, Tony Bradley is officially forgoing his sophomore season at North Carolina and remaining in the 2017 NBA Draft, as first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical.
Bradley is UNC’s first one-and-done since Brandan Wright, who made the jump to the NBA in 2007 and was drafted No. 8 overall. Numerous times throughout the draft process, Bradley emphasized he would only go pro if confident he’d be drafted in the first round.
Teams interested in Bradley are intrigued not by what he was at North Carolina, but what he could be at the next level. In limited action behind seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, Bradley averaged 7.1 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game. He was the only Tar Heel who grabbed more offensive rebounds (98) than defensive ones (97) last season.
With Bradley’s return, UNC’s roster is set for the 2017-18 campaign. But with Meeks and Hicks’ departure, North Carolina will be much thinner in the front court as compared to prior years.
The only returning big man is Luke Maye. Maye played almost exactly as many minutes per game as Bradley but averaged less points (5.5) and rebounds (3.9) per game.
Maye’s shooting ability is valuable to the team (see Elite Eight win against Kentucky), but he fits the role of a stretch four. This likely means one of UNC’s three incoming first-years — Garrison Brooks, Brandon Huffman or Sterling Manley — will be thrown into action right off the bat.
Manley, standing at 6-foot-10, is the tallest of the three. Brooks, a four-star recruit, is the highest rated. How these three prepare and perform will be an interesting early-season storyline for the Tar Heels.
When Bradley, Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson all declared for the NBA Draft, North Carolina was looking at a lack of experience across the board.
With Bradley’s departure and the return of Berry and Pinson, the team still appears pretty prepared to face one of the toughest tasks in sports — following up on a national championship season. But questions remain to be answered, especially down low.
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