Tar Heels cross fingers as Bullock's draft stock rises

Jun. 27, 2013 @ 06:44 PM

North Carolina coach Roy Williams will be watching tonight’s NBA Draft with some different emotions than usual.

Williams has had 12 underclassmen declare for the draft in his nine seasons with the Tar Heels. Usually, it’s just been a case of how early they’ll be taken in the first round. None of them have carried the uncertainty that Reggie Bullock has since he decided to go pro two months ago without the guarantee of being taken in the first round at all.

The 6-7 swingman has moved up draft boards since his decision. But many projections still have Bullock as a borderline case.

“I’m still very nervous about it because nobody’s stepped forward yet and said, ‘I will take him,’” Williams said Wednesday. “But he’s done some good things at the combine, he measured out like we said he was, and he’s had some really good workouts.

“So I’m more encouraged, but every kid that we’ve ever had to make the decision to leave before, I’ve been told that yes, he’s going to be a No. 1 draft choice. So I’m still nervous about it until someone steps forward and says they’re going to make him a No. 1 pick.”

Nine of the previous 11 early entrants were taken in the lottery, including last season’s trio of Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall. Only Wayne Ellington (28th) came close to dropping out of the first round and missing out on a guaranteed two-year contract.

Bullock was named team MVP this past season after he led the Tar Heels in 3-point percentage (43.6), was second in rebounding (6.5) and was third in scoring (13.9), assists (101) and steals (44).

The Kinston native has shown his versatility at UNC. He went from being a defensive specialist last season on a team with scorers like Barnes and Tyler Zeller to being a key rebounder this season when the Tar Heels went to a four-guard lineup, leading the team in rebounding in nine of its final 10 games.

But his biggest attribute by far is his shooting.

“He can really shoot the basketball, and that’s at a premium in the NBA,” Williams said. “He has a quick release, he has good size, he can get it off against guys who would typically guard him. That would be 1-A, and 1-B will be that he’ll just work at it awfully hard and do everything he can to be successful.”

Bullock still needs to work on his ballhandling and creating his own shot. But ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford thinks he’ll be a mid-to-late first round pick.

“He’s had a great process,” Ford said. “A number of teams out there are looking for shooters that can stretch the floor. The feedback that I’ve gotten from the teams that have worked him out is that he has been one of the best of that group.

“I certainly think that he could end up going to the Bucks at 15. That’s probably his ceiling. And then probably his floor, the Bulls like him a lot at 20. I don’t think that he gets past the Pacers at 23.”

If so, that would be a welcome relief to those in Chapel Hill who are hoping Bullock made the right decision.

“It has some suspense because of the concern and the worry you have,” Williams said. “But it will also bring more exhilaration because there is that uncertainty out there, and when he’s drafted (in the first round) and he signs, that’s two years of guaranteed money, it’s two years that they’re making a commitment to him. It’s a tremendous start.”