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UNC Now is your place for Tar Heel sports. Beat writer Andrew Carter has up-to-the-minute news and analysis. Columnist Luke DeCock also contributes. Follow us on Twitter at @_andrewcarter or @accnow.

UNC players in the NBA draft: a scout breaks down Tar Heels quartet

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Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller (not pictured) are all expected to be first-round picks in the NBA draft. But where? PHOTO: Robert Willett

NEW YORK — Welcome to New York. I’m coming at you live from the Westin in Times Square where, in less than hour, we’ll begin hearing from the 14 players who were invited to attend the NBA draft. Among them: North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller, all of whom are projected to be draft lottery picks.

Kendall Marshall, by the way, is not here. Though no one would be surprised if he wound up being a lottery pick as well when the draft commences on Thursday night at 7:30.

Between now and the start of the draft, there’s likely to be a good amount of speculation, rumors and guesses about which players is headed where. Outside of Anthony Davis, the former Kentucky freshman who’s a lock to be the No. 1 pick, this draft appears as wide open as any in recent memory.

We can be sure that UNC’s four prospects will be selected in the first round but as for where, well, who knows? Barnes could go as high as the No. 2 overall pick, or he could slide out of the top 5. Henson and Zeller seem the next most likely to be drafted among the top 10, or they could fall. Marshall? He’s an obvious lottery pick to some who specialize in the draft, but not so much to others.

To get a read on how UNC’s prospects have been evaluated approaching the draft, I recently spoke with a longtime NBA scout. You can read in detail right here what he said to say about each of the Tar Heels. Or, if you’re in a hurry, here’s the synopsis:

On Barnes …
The good: Athleticism and size, good outside shot that should become more consistent with time.
The bad: Ball-handling, quickness and his lackluster ability to create his own shot and get to the basket.

On Henson …
The good: His shot-blocking ability and how he affects the game defensively around the basket. His left-handed hook shot, that should eventually translate into one he can execute with his right, too.
The bad: His weight disadvantage, poor free-throw shooting and still raw overall offensive game.

On Marshall …
The good: His team-first, pass-first approach, his high basketball IQ and his oft-mentioned “vision.”
The bad: His relative ordinary athleticism and questions about whether he can create his own shot enough to keep defenses from focusing on taking away his passing.

On Zeller …
The good: His polished offensive game, and sound shooting ability – both from the floor and the free-throw line. And he can run the floor, and likes to do so.
The bad: The questions surrounding his defense and how he’ll handle going against stronger, quicker competition.

So there you have it. The Reader’s Digest version of what ran today in the paper.

Barnes, Henson, Marshall and Zeller will become the second UNC foursome in school history to be selected in the first round. It happened the first time in 2005, when Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants and Marvin Williams were all selected among the top 14 picks.

Could this UNC foursome outdo that one on draft night?

“The draft is kind of like an umpire’s strike zone,” said the scout we spoke to. “There’s a general consensus with subjective interpretation. So, yeah, these guys are all definitely first-round guys. And in all probability they’re going in the top half of the first round.”

Stay tuned …

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About the blogger

Andrew Carter is the University of North Carolina beat writer for the News & Observer.
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