Gamechangers - Four Juniors Who Put Off the NBA and Why They're Important
James Michael McAdoo – It may seem odd to list a player who has underachieved like McAdoo has, but he is still vital to North Carolina’s season, especially in light of PJ Hairston’s off-season difficulties. After showing some flashes in limited time his freshman year, McAdoo seemed often uncomfortable with a main role. Also, he never really used his physical talent as much as he should, often shying away and taking some poor jump shots. Still, with Hairston’s issues, and the loss of Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland, McAdoo will finally need to assert himself among a still fairly young, in terms of key players, Tar Heels team if they want to have any chance to make a March run.
Jarnell Stokes – Under Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee has been a consistently average team, though there is some talent in Knoxville. Stokes has been a bright spot and with the return of Jeronne Maymon from a knee injury, he should have even more opportunity to make an impact. He is a bull around the basket and can impact the game at both ends for the Volunteers. He will draw a lot of attention from defenses, so there should be space for scorers like Jordan McRae to operate.
Spencer Dinwiddie – The talent level at Colorado has increased significantly under coach Tad Boyle, but with the loss of leading defender and rebounder Andre Roberson, it was essential that Dinwiddie return to Boulder for his junior year if the Buffaloes were to make a deep run this year. Dinwiddie is comfortable on and off the ball, and his length helps him create beneficial matchups. With the loss of Roberson’s interior defense, Dinwiddie’s ability to disrupt up top will only help Colorado’s big men. Add to that, the potential to draw mismatches on offense can really force opposing teams’ hands.
Khem Birch – Birch is far from a polished player, but if you watched UNLV last season, you will understand why he is so important. Birch is the only decent interior defender, and with Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall gone, he may be the only decent defender at all. Luckily for Birch, he won’t have to make up for Katin Reinhardt’s or Anthony Bennett’s lack of defensive ability, and with an increasing understanding of how to play; Birch could be one of the best defenders in the Mountain Wes this season. We know UNLV will find ways to score, but Birch will be needed to make some stops.
Read here for returning sophomores.