Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina

UNC Basketball Insider: Theo Pinson

Inside Carolina compiled insider perspectives to create an exclusive player-by-player preview of North Carolina's 2016-17 season.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Theo Pinson’s versatility extends across the court and even off the court. Not only is the 6-foot-6, 205-pound junior a natural leader and the team’s resident comedy act, but he’s also an athletic wing that can play any position on the floor other than the 5-spot, and he likely would accept that challenge as well. A lingering foot injury impeded his progress last summer, which likely contributed to some inconsistent play throughout his sophomore season. Pinson should step into a starting role between classmates Joel Berry and Justin Jackson, and their scoring ability shifts his job into that of a utility man, gobbling up stats and serving as energy guy and defensive stopper. 


Started first six games of 2015-16 at wing guard, came off bench for all but one other game.

First non-starter to dish out more than 100 assists (115) in a season since Quentin Thomas in 2008

Shot 40.4 percent from the floor and 29 percent from 3-point range in 2015-16.


To understand Theo Pinson’s impact, you have to start with his passing. His ability to see the floor and create for others is arguably his No. 1 skill. Pinson led UNC in 2015-16 with an assist every 6.5 minutes of play. In opening the season as the starting wing guard – the spot at which he’s the presumed starter this season – he averaged 5.3 assists in those first six games.

Interestingly, he not only had the team’s highest assist rate over the course of the season, but the highest turnover rate as well. And yet he’s got a career 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. Delving deeper, Synergy Sports records a points per possession statistical category that includes assists, and that’s where Pinson’s value shines brightest. His 1.313 PP(P+A) ranks in the nation’s 93rd percentile.

One glaring statistic is comparing his success as a scorer versus man and zone. Last season he was far less effective scoring against zone defenses, shooting nearly 20 percentage points worse (40.7% vs 21.2%) than against man-to-man defenses. And his free throw rate plummeted against zone as well.


by Rob Harrington

Injuries and role confusion hindered Pinson’s scoring output during his first two seasons at UNC, but this year offers immense promise. The junior wing will challenge for a starting position in the backcourt yet also likely receive minutes as a small power forward. Roy Williams clearly regards him as a valuable utility athlete, and now the question is whether he can muster halfcourt offense that will enable him to become a more complete performer. Pinson attempted by far fewer shots per minute last season than the other rotation players, and that factoid simply cannot repeat in 2016-17. Encouragingly, his confidence and aggression appear to correlate positively with more minutes. Now that his playing time is built in, will he prove a junior year surprise?


by ACC Coaches

“I think he’s a really underrated passer. When he comes in, he’s the guy who, even last year, he was one of the best passers on their team and playmakers. So when he drives, he’s a guy who really has a knack for finding open guys. He’s really good at that."

"The biggest part of his game he needs to take a step up is with his shooting, which I’m sure he has worked on a lot this summer. But he’s explosive, an energy player, very good defender who can guard multiple spots. He’s a good player.”

“He’s an athletic guy. Kind of a role player, gets out in transition, streaky shooter, has the ability to get it going, elite level defender with his length and athleticism. So you expect him to take a step up with his leadership role as well.”


by Dewey Burke

I have big expectations for Theo this season. I believe he can fill the coveted "Jackie Manuel" role this year for us and be perhaps our most important player not named Joel Berry. Theo will be charged with guarding the other team's best perimeter player on most nights, and could also play a key role as a 4-man (or Justin) when we go small.  Theo's energy and knack for the ball will be critical for making plays for us this season.  Deflections, steals, offensive rebounds, tip-outs - all the little things that get us extra possessions I will look to Theo to create.  Most of Theo's scoring should come from around the rim as to date he hasn't shown himself to be a real threat from outside 15-feet. Perhaps this summer he improved his range.  

Most important for Theo is to stay healthy so he can be the explosive wing that we need.  While Justin is a player of skill, finesse and scoring ability - Theo should be our junkyard dog. Scrapping for extra possessions, getting under the opponents' skin.  To me, along with Joel, our toughness comes from this man.

Also give Theo credit for being a great part of the personality of our team off the court.  Coach loves him and loves his jokes. Don't discount how important that part of a team is. You have to be able to laugh with and at each other. We are together so much from August to April, some personality is important.

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