Roy Williams has a bit of a conundrum on his hands. The type of conundrum coaches pray for, but one none the less. Williams has too much talent at the forward position. With the arrival of Nassir Little, a 6’6” five-star recruit who was ranked in the top 5 of this year’s recruiting class, and the return of player of the year favorite Luke Maye and Cam Johnson (last year’s third leading scorer), there’s a serious question about how Williams will manage minutes at the 3/4 position – and more importantly who will start.
Williams has a couple of options here. He can go the more traditional route with Coby White, a freshman who can get to the bucket with ease but needs to polish up what he does once he gets there, running the point. Kenny Williams, one of their best shooters, at the 2. Cam Johnson, who I think will be the team’s leading scorer, at the 3. ACC Preseason player of the year Luke Maye at the 4, and Garrison Brooks or Sterling Manley (depending on who’s playing better) at the 5. With this option Little would be the 6th man – getting hefty minutes, but coming off the bench.
The second option has Williams going small ball and running a more position-less offense, which while uncharacteristic for the Heels, is a way to feature his best talent. With this choice Williams would start freshman Coby White at the 1, Kenny Williams at the 2, Cam Johnson at the 3, Nassir at the 4 and Luke at the 5. Roy started the 2nd half of Friday’s exhibition against Mt Olive with this lineup, but admitted he didn’t like their play.
“I knew that I was going to start one lineup in the first half and one lineup in the second half. For the first half and then the first part of the second half I knew what I wanted to do, but I got so frustrated with the five that we started in the second half. We turned the ball over four times in 3:25, so after that my temper got in the way of reason.”
Turnovers or not, I think this is Roy’s best option for a couple of reasons. Yes, you give up size with this lineup, but you makeup for it with the speed and athleticism of Nassir and Luke’s ability to knock down the 3 will help spread the floor.
Another reason why it’s crucial that Roy starts Little is recruiting. Imagine fellow one and done hopefuls Cole Anthony and Vernon Carey, who have yet to commit and are being heavily recruited by UNC, seeing Little come off the bench. Yes, the lineups change every year and position log-jams don’t always happen, but the optics are bad. If I’m one of the most talented players in the country, I expect to play and start. And you better believe parents, advisors and the players themselves are watching the progression and playing time of top recruits.
We’ll know sooner than later which option Roy will go with – Lord knows the Hall of Famer is better qualified to do this than me. At least the dilemma is having too much talent and not enough.