Rebuttal: Chad Ford on UNC
In a recent ESPN.com story, noted NBA draft expert Chad Ford delivered his thoughts on Carolina as a producer of NBA talent. Because the story contains insight from experts such as noted NBA draft expert Chad Ford, it is hidden behind a pay wall, but in the interest of fair use, we wanted to parse Ford's comments on the Tar Heels. They are as follows:
"Then there's North Carolina. The Tar Heels have a grand tradition of producing NBA players under both Dean Smith and Roy Williams.”
Hope you enjoyed this. It was the last actual fact in this particular bit of analysis by Ford.
“Two years ago, North Carolina would have been on this list.”
Again, this story is on “college programs that produce NBA talent.” Noted NBA draft expert Chad Ford would have included Carolina two years ago—in January of 2011—when the Tar Heels had just had one player, Ed Davis, picked in the 2010 draft, and were on the way to having zero players selected in the 2011 draft.
However, noted NBA draft expert Chad Ford would not presently include Carolina, since the Tar Heels had four players selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. Again, this is a story about “college programs that produce NBA talent.”
“But I've heard NBA scout after NBA scout make the same observation about Williams' recent teams: He still recruits as well as any coach in the country, but his players don't really seem to get any better the longer they stay in the program.”
It’s fair to wonder if those are the same NBA scouts and/or GMs who regularly refer to noted NBA draft expert Chad Ford as “Chad Fraud,” but that’s a discussion for another day. Let’s instead look at the line about how “(Williams’s) players don’t really seem to get any better the longer they stay in the program.”
Hey, here’s an easy way to do it: since Ford doesn’t seem impressed by Carolina’s four first-round picks last June, let’s examine those players and see if they got any better in college. But instead of using the trademarked Chad Ford Rating System of throwing out judgments that appear to be based on nothing more than his opinion, let’s look at actual stats and facts.
Keep in mind that by limiting this to only the 2012 draftees, we’re excluding such players as Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough, Reyshawn Terry, David Noel, Raymond Felton, Sean May and Marvin Williams, all of whom it’s fair to say helped their NBA draft stock under Roy Williams at Carolina.
Harrison Barnes: He was the top player in the country in high school. Ford himself has written that Barnes was “dominant” in high school, when he put up terrific numbers against the legendarily difficult Iowa high school ranks. Surprisingly, Atlantic Coast Conference basketball turned out to be tougher than Iowa prep hoops, and Barnes managed to only become the ninth Tar Heel to win ACC ROY, the 14th Tar Heel to earn freshman All-America honors, and became the first UNC freshman since Brandan Wright in 2007 to earn second-team All-ACC.
From his freshman season to his sophomore season, Barnes improved his field goal percentage, three-point percentage and scoring average…all while playing fewer minutes than he did as a freshman.
And you know what? Barnes is probably the closest player on this list to confirming what Ford wrote.
Tyler Zeller: Zeller was the seventh-rated power forward coming out of high school, a 220-pound seven-footer who could run but wasn’t especially strong. Scout.com ranked him behind power forwards like Chris Singleton, Delvon Roe, Greg Monroe and Samardo Samuels.
Four years later, Zeller was a 250-pound ACC Player of the Year, a consensus second-team All-America and the 2012 Academic All-America of the Year. His field goal percentage improved in each of his four seasons, as did his rebounding numbers and scoring average. The muscle he added with Tar Heel strength coach Jonas Sahratian enabled him to take a Tyler Hansbrough-type pounding during his senior season, when the ACC lane during Carolina games regularly resembled a WWE free-for-all.
Ford obviously isn’t in the business of evaluating all-around improvement. But to say that Tyler Zeller in any way didn’t get better—in any aspect of his life—during his four years in Chapel Hill is incredibly short-sighted. Zeller was picked 17th overall in the 2012 draft. Those power forwards who were ranked ahead of him coming out of high school? Singleton went 18th in 2011, Delvon Roe is out of basketball due to injuries, Monroe left school early and is playing very well for the Detroit Pistons, and Samuels was undrafted in the 2010 draft and now plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he mostly warms the bench behind…oh, gee, Tyler Zeller, who didn’t get any better in college but now somehow plays more in the NBA than the once highly coveted Samardo Samuels.
John Henson: The top-ranked power forward by Scout.com coming out of high school in 2009, Henson spent several months at Carolina trying to be a small forward. Once he found a home in the paint, however, he became the 2011 and 2012 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He is Carolina’s all-time career leader in blocks per game and second overall in total blocks, where he trails only four-year player Sam Perkins.
But wait a second—no less an expert than the exalted Chad Ford said Henson made improvements in college. In this story, written before Henson’s junior year, Ford writes that Henson “added bulk to his frame and a perimeter game” in college. If you read further down that story, you’ll find another analyst who says Henson “improved immensely from his freshman to sophomore season.”
The three power forwards ranked just behind Henson in the 2010 class were the following:
Renardo Sidney—Picked on ESPN.com, the same site that pays Chad Ford to be an NBA draft analyst, as one of the “NBA draft’s biggest disappointments.” Went undrafted in the 2012 draft, currently listed on the roster of the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the NBDL.
Mouphtauo Yarou—A senior a Villanova, Yarou plays the fewest minutes of any Wildcat starter and averages 7.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Not currently listed in the top 20 of noted NBA draft expert Chad Ford's top 20 for the 2013 draft.
Ryan Kelly—Currently injured for Duke, where he is an important cog for the Blue Devils. Not currently listed in the top 20 of noted NBA draft expert Chad Ford's top 20 for the 2013 draft.
It’s a good thing none of the above went to Carolina to torpedo their professional stock.
Kendall Marshall: Marshall was a four-star player on a scale of five coming out of high school, according to the Scout.com database. He was ranked the ninth-best point guard in his class according to that same organization. Now fast-forward to June 2012, when Marshall was the 13th pick overall in the NBA Draft, after just two years of tutelage at Carolina. If he hadn’t gotten any better, would the ninth-best point guard in his class really have vaulted to the 13th-best draft eligible player in the world?
Marshall dramatically improved his field goal shooting—an area of concern coming out of high school—from 41.8% as a freshman to 46.7% as a sophomore. Of course, it was his passing that made his reputation, as he handed out an ACC-record 351 assists as a sophomore. He also won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard. Pretty heady stuff for a player who was considered a good recruit, but not a singularly elite player, coming out of high school.
Point guards ranked above Marshall in high school include Ian Miller (currently coming off the bench for Florida State), Ray McCallum (currently playing for Detroit—not the Detroit Pistons, Detroit in the NCAA, currently ranked 58th in Chad Ford's listing of possible 2013 draftees), Ryan Harrow (started at NC State, bounced to Kentucky, currently ranked 80th in Chad Ford's listing of possible 2013 draftees), Josh Selby (picked 49th in the 2011 draft, has played in 10 games for Memphis this year, averaging two points per game, and was traded today from Memphis to the Cavs), and Cory Joseph (playing a very limited role for the Spurs after being chosen 29th overall in the 2011 Draft). I challenge you to find any analyst in the country who projected Marshall as a two-and-done player prior to him enrolling at North Carolina, much less as a player who would be drafted ahead of any of the above players.
“Harrison Barnes and James Michael McAdoo, both elite high school recruits, are the most recent examples.”
Barnes is addressed above. McAdoo is currently halfway through his sophomore season. Keep in mind that noted NBA draft expert Chad Ford had McAdoo going eighth in the 2012 draft if he had chosen to enter that particular draft and listed him as the seventh-best player among the 100 draft-eligible players, so it sounds like Ford was pretty impressed with McAdoo’s freshman campaign. Of course, it’s also a fair question to wonder if McAdoo's presumed struggles this year are a case of him not living up to his own potential…or to the potential bestowed upon him by noted NBA draft expert Chad Ford.
Has McAdoo lived up to his preseason first-team All-ACC billing? Not yet (that’s partly due to the performance of Reggie Bullock, a player who—hey, waaaaaait a second—has improved quite a bit at Carolina and is playing an enhanced role for the Tar Heels), but he’s coming off a 19-point, 11-rebound double-double against Maryland, and has 14 ACC games left to play in his sophomore year. It’s possible, just possible, that it might not be a good idea to judge him based on the first two months of the season, especially considering that McAdoo made significant strides in the second half of his freshman campaign, and could do the same again this year.
“Whether it's the fact that Williams recruits players who just happen to not put in extra work -- or whether he doesn't push them quite as hard -- a lot of North Carolina players seem to leave UNC with nearly the same skill set they came in with."
What did you say? What? Speak up, please. I can’t hear you out of my left ear, because Tyler Zeller just landed a roundhouse right hook when I repeated this comment about him not working hard. Barnes’s work ethic was one of the biggest parts of his legend. Henson added 30 pounds of muscle at Carolina, which I guess he did by eating at Sutton’s, since we know it wasn’t from working hard, and as noted above, Ford himself said Henson "added a perimeter game" in college, which was not part of his repertoire coming out of high school.
As for Williams not pushing his players hard, that would probably best be observed in practice. Presumably, Ford would have no problem listing the Tar Heel practices he has attended during the careers of the above-listed players, especially given his busy schedule as a professor at BYU-Hawaii, where he teaches in the area of conflict resolution, which is a terrific pedigree for an NBA draft analyst. Ford's work ethic is to be commended, as he somehow balances his career as a noted NBA draft expert with teaching such clearly draft-related courses as intercultural peacebuilding, intercultural conflict dynamics, and cultural mediation.
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