The Jazz selected the 6-foot-11 first-year forward with the No. 28 pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night. Bradley is the 112th draft pick in UNC history and 23rd under head coach Roy Williams. He is the second Tar Heel to be selected in the first round this year, behind being drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the No. 15 pick.
Utah’s center Rudy Gobert is one of the best defenders in the league. The 7-foot-1 Frenchman known as the Stifle Tower averaged 2.6 blocks per game last year along with 14 points and 12.8 rebounds. The Jazz started veteran Boris Diaw at power forward this past season and also rotated in Derrick Favors and Joe Ingles. Bradley will likely start the season on the bench but has a chance to contribute, especially with trade rumors surrounding Favors.
Bradley had an efficient season for the Tar Heels, scoring 7.1 points per game and grabbing 5.1 rebounds per game as the top sub off the bench for senior forwards and Isaiah Hicks. He also converted 57.3 percent of his field-goal attempts, barely missing Hicks’ 57.6 percentage for the team lead. The five-star Bartow, Florida product was an impressive floor runner at 240 pounds, too.
Bradley’s rebounding numbers were his most impressive statistic. Since the NCAA began recording offensive rebounds in the 1995-96 season, Bradley is the only Tar Heel in school history — among those with 150 or more rebounds in a season — to grab more offensive ones (98) than defensive ones (97). And he did so in just 14.6 minutes per game.
Bradley had his fair share of doubters when he into the draft and announced he would in it. The general consensus was for him to return to North Carolina for his sophomore season, at least — he’d be a no-brainer in the starting lineup and would be able to showcase more of the talent that was catching scouts’ eyes.
But Bradley cannot be faulted for making the jump to the pros when his stock was high enough. Improving draft stock is an ideal situation for every player, but it is no guarantee. It has hurt players in the past, including UNC’s own James Michael McAdoo, who was considered a lottery pick after his first season but ended up going undrafted in 2014 after two more years at North Carolina.