If you ask almost any Carolina fan who the most disappointing player was for the Tar Heels this season, the answer would undoubtedly be Nassir Little. There was a lot of hype surrounding Little coming out of high school. He was the McDonald’s All American game MVP after scoring 28 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Against a team consisting of Zion Williamson, Rj Barrett, Romeo Langford, Coby White, and Darius Garland. All of whom will most likely be drafted in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft. Little came into the season as a consensus top three pick, but it didn’t take long for his stock to dip.
Nassir Little opened the season with 7 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks against Wofford. Which was a little disappointing, but it was just the first game of season. In his next game he had a 21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block in his performance against Elon. His next few games were inconsistent, but as soon as the Tar Heels started to play tougher opponents, Nassir Little began to struggle. Below are all of Nassir Little’s games against top 25 teams.
#17 UCLA – 14 Points, 4 Rebounds, 5-12 FG, 1-5 3PT
#7 Michigan – 4 Points, 1 Rebound, 1-5 FG
#4 Gonzaga – 7 Points, 3 Rebounds, 2 Turnovers, 3-7 FG
#19 Kentucky – 4 Points, 2 Assists, 1 Block, 2-8 FG
#15 NC State – 2 Points, 2 Rebounds, 2 Turnovers, 1-5 FG
#10 Virginia Tech – 23 Points, 3 Assists, 6 Rebounds, 2 Turnovers, 7-12 FG, 2-3 3PT FG
#15 Louisville – 4 Points, 6 Rebounds, 1 Steal, 1 Block, 2-6 FG
#1 Duke – 2 Points, 2 Assists, 3 Turnovers, 1-3 FG
#16 Florida State – 18 points, 8 Rebounds, 1 Steal, 1 Block, 2 Turnovers, 6-11 FG
#4 Duke – 9 Points, 4 Rebounds, 1 Block, 2 Turnovers, 4-8 FG, 1-2 3PT FG
#5 Duke – 9 Points, 6 Rebounds, 4-12 FG, 0-3 3PT FG
#14 Auburn – 4 Points, 3 Rebounds, 2 Turnovers, 2-7 FG, 0-2 3PT FG
In those 12 games, Little averaged 8.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.4 steals, 1.2 fouls, 1.4 turnovers, shooting 40% from the field, and 19% from three. Do those stats look like a potential lottery pick? Clearly scouts are still holding on to that high potential that he showed in high school, but sometimes you need to stop being optimistic and start being realistic.
Nassir Little isn’t as talented as we all thought he was at the start of the season. He has little to no offensive game, mostly just relying on his athleticism on that side of the ball. He’s also known as being a great defender, but that’s not true either. In one on one situations, he may be the best defender in all of college basketball, but that’s not how basketball is played. Nassir Little isn’t a great team defender. He’ll lock you down, but if you call for a screen, he’ll panic. He averages more fouls than he does steals and blocks combined. Obviously stats aren’t everything, and you can’t judge a player by what the stat sheet say, but his stat sheet definitely isn’t a pretty one.
However, his advanced stats are a little more forgiving. His defensive rating is 96.8 which is solid, considering the fact that UNC ranked 223rd out of all division one teams in opponent points per game. Just to gauge what his defensive rating means, De’Andre Hunter had a defensive rating of 94.9, Jarrett Culver had a defensive rating of 86.7, and Matisse Thybulle had a defensive rating of 88. De’Andre Hunter was the best defender on the best defensive team in college basketball, and he wasn’t too far ahead of Little.
Nassir Little was unable to find himself in a starting role for the Tar Heels this season. How do you expect to significant minutes in the NBA if you couldn’t even get significant minutes in college? Staying for one more season at North Carolina could’ve been very beneficial for him, but he decided he was ready. Here’s the pros and cons to his game so that we can see if he really as talented as some scouts think.
*Good one on one defender
*Great work ethic
*Can score off the dribble
*Needs to develop more all around offensive skills
*Needs to improve his shooting
*Could improve on his defensive consistency
*Can disappear on offense
*Can take careless shots on offense
*Could improve ball handling
Nassir Little clearly needs to make some big improvements to his game to be a great player at the next level. They’re improvements that he could realistically make. He showed some signs throughout the season of having an improved offensive game, but it just wasn’t consistent enough to make a real impact. He scored double digits more often than not, and did have an impressive trio of 20 point games. His shot is a big question mark, but with that being the biggest problem with his game, it’s hard to believe that it won’t be one of his biggest priorities going forward.
Will Nassir Little will be a bust in the NBA? He has high potential, and is more of a project than a win now kind of guy. It seems likely that he could end up being a Justice Winslow type player. He could definitely make good on his high potential, but it might just take a few seasons to get there. He may be labeled as a bust early in his NBA career, but he has the work ethic to make the improvements that will help him become a solid NBA player. He’s incredibly athletic and showed some flashes of greatness throughout the season. Most high school basketball stars have the reigns handed to them right away in college, but Roy Williams made Nassir work for it. At the end of the day, he’s a smart player with an incredibly high work ethic, and it’d be surprising to seem him not fulfill at least a portion of his potential in the NBA.