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Monday March 8th

Tar Heels in the pros: Here's how the NBA's 22-team return will affect former UNC players

<p>Dean Smith talks to Vince Carter during the Feb. 27, 1996 game against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons won 84-60. DTH File/Erik Perel.</p>
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Dean Smith talks to Vince Carter during the Feb. 27, 1996 game against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons won 84-60. DTH File/Erik Perel.

With the NBA’s decision to resume the season with a 22-team format starting on July 31, several former North Carolina standouts will be packing their bags for Orlando, while others will be watching from home. Here’s how the league’s decision to start back will affect three of them. 

Danny Green

Barring an early-round upset, Green and the Los Angeles Lakers look like a lock to advance to the Western Conference Finals. 

Green has excelled in his first season as a three-and-D wing for the Lakers — complementing team stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and helping support the team on its way to a Western Conference best 49-14 record. 

Though Green hasn't been an offensive juggernaut while playing alongside two of the league’s best in James and Davis, his 38 percent shooting from beyond the arch and 55 percent effective field goal percentage have helped improve efficiency for a Lakers team that finished 10th place in the Western Conference last year. 

Through 61 games, Green has only had a negative plus/minus 13 times, and has earned 2.4 defensive win shares, showing an important contribution on the defensive end of the court. While he may not be an All-NBA caliber player, his decision to leave Toronto after winning the title in 2019 has been a clear boost to a Lakers team that was in desperate need of veteran role players. 

It’s likely Championship-or-bust for the Lakers this season, as Green will aim to add a third ring to his collection as a 33-year-old 11-year veteran in a starting line-up with three members over 30. 

Harrison Barnes

While Barnes’ Sacramento Kings likely won't be making a deep playoff run — as they currently sit 3.5 games behind 8th place — Barnes has put together a solid campaign in his first full season in Sacramento. 

The 8-year NBA veteran has knocked down 14.7 points per game on 46 percent shooting through 64 games, and has continued to play an important on-court leadership role for a young Kings roster. 

In their last five games before the season was postponed, the Kings noticed a 3-2 split, including a win over current No. 9 seed Portland. Against the Trail Blazers, Barnes finished with 20 points and an impressive 5-for-7 night from beyond the arch. 

If the Kings are to make a run at the Playoffs in Orlando, Barnes will have to play a key role in leading them there, as the former Tar Heel brings Championship experience to a franchise that has not reached the postseason since 2006. 

Vince Carter

After the Atlanta Hawks were excluded from the 22 teams going to Orlando, Vince Carter's long and successful tenure in the NBA officially came to an end. 

The 43-year-old NBA legend hit his final shot, a deep three against the New York Knicks, in the waning seconds of what everyone seemed to know would be his last NBA game as talks of postponement spread across the league. 

While Carter’s last seasons in the NBA were short of spectacular in the box score, his career accomplishments and longevity cemented his spot as a future Hall-of-Famer. 

Carter played 22 years across four decades, a career longer than anyone else in league history. He finished with 25,728 points, giving him the 19th-most points in NBA history. He knocked down 2,290 three-pointers, placing him sixth in the all-time list. 

Carter’s impact on the game goes beyond numbers, though. He was the first star player for a Canadian franchise, and helped ensure Toronto would not suffer the same fate of relocation that the Vancouver Grizzlies faced early in Carter's career. 

He spent the later years of his career as a journeyman and playing a guiding role for the league's young players, and retired as one of the most respected veterans in the NBA. 

Carter’s retirement represented the last former Tar Heel who played under Dean Smith leaving the NBA. For the last Smith-coached player to be Carter, whose basketball career came to represent longevity, success and respect, seems only fitting. 


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