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ACCSports Projects NC State Men’s Basketball to Finish 7th in 2019-20

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ACCSports.com has released their early projections for the 2019-20 ACC Men’s Basketball season, and they think that NC State will finish 7th in the conference.

Outside of Jordan Nwora’s decision to return to Louisville, there’s likely no ACC team that got a bigger boost from a draft decision than NC State: Markell Johnson will back for his senior season.

Johnson’s rise as a junior — from pass-first slasher to pick-and-roll engine — was a massive development for Kevin Keatts and the Wolfpack. It’s also why Johnson returns to Raleigh as one of the most important players in the league. Without Johnson, it’s unclear who would’ve taken on the playmaking torch in State’s half-court offense.

Fortunately for Keatts, that’s a discussion for another day.

While still turnover prone (20.5 percent turnover rate), Johnson is a shifty, clever player who utilizes a nice mixture of twitchy handles and athleticism (14 dunks) with some craft. He’s pretty good at some of the tactical dark arts that come with running screen-roll actions, too — manipulating defenders with loopy crossovers dribbles and no-look finds (6.7 assists per 40 minutes).

According to Synergy, Johnson shot 46.5 percent (55.1 eFG%) out of the pick-and-roll this season. He’s especially fond of snaking the ball screen — dribbling back across the path of the opposing help defender.

He’s as comfortable as any player in college basketball at creating a switch and then finding ways to attack the new configuration.

As good as he was out of the pick-and-roll, Johnson could go get his own shot out of isolation, too: 1.07 points per possession (55.2 eFG%). (Note: Johnson was the only play in the ACC to rank top five in the league in both isolation and catch-and-shoot efficiency, 67.6 eFG%.)

This season, expect Johnson to dance in the pick-and-roll a lot with springy big man DJ Funderburk, a fringe NBA prospect, too.

Funderburk — 28 dunks, 66.1 FG% at the rim — is good complement to Johnson. He can dive to the rim, looking for lobs or pocket passes — and hit the offensive glass. Funderburk shot just under 57 percent on basket rolls last season, per Synergy.

His work on the offensive glass was pivotal for NC State; it essentially won a January home game over Pitt after Johnson left with an injury. The transfer big posted an 11.2 percent offensive rebound rate and shot 65.9 percent on put-back attempts — both big numbers.

Funderburk won’t draw any Joel Embiid comparisons, but even with his wiry frame, he’s still decent at carving out space in the post, especially when he’s able to seal his defender in State’s 4-around-1 half-court system.

Johnson and Funderburk (5.9 fouls committed per 40 minutes) need to avoid foul trouble — an issue for both this season — but they should function as an excellent 1-2 combination for the Pack.

Spotting up around those possessions will be grad transfer Pat Andree, a good addition to the program this offseason. During his three seasons at Lehigh (over 2,220 minutes of action), Andree attempted 441 3-pointers — making 184 (41.7 3P%). He’s a bit of a one-trick pony — spot-up shooter — but it’s a necessary skill for a team that shot 35.2 percent from downtown a season ago.

According to Synergy, Andree scored 1.22 points per possession (60.6 eFG%) on half-court catch-and-shoot possessions.

From a leadership standpoint, it may be impossible to replace what Torin Dorn meant to NC State. His time in Raleigh extended back to the Mark Gottfried era; however, he’ll likely be best known for helping set the culture for Keatts.

That said, Dorn wasn’t just a figurehead; the dude was an awesomely rugged basketball player, who battled on the glass, defended bigger players and made tough shots (44.4 FG% on dribble jumpers). NC State has a few options to work into larger roles this season, though.

CJ Bryce was solid for most of his first season in a red uniform (0.87 points per spot-up possession); is he ready for more prominent duties next year? Devon Daniels is a borrowing driver of the basketball who plays without fear on both ends of the floor (2.8 percent block rate), but he needs to refine is shot selection. (95 2PA away from the rim, 32.6 FG%).

Jericole Hellems struggled with his shot as a freshman (44.6 eFG%), but there’s some talent and positional versatility there, too.

ACCSports.com


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