Last month, the Brooklyn Nets seemed poised to turn Las Vegas into an International showcase, with an original roster that included players from Bosnia, Croatia, China, Argentina, Israel, Puerto Rico and Japan. But injuries and incomplete buyouts thwarted that plan. Instead, it was Theo Pinson turned out to be the most recognizable name on their summer league team outside of Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
After all, Pinson was an NCAA champion, a four-year starter at one of the top programs in the U.S. of A. And he did well despite all the problems that beset the team ... and a miserable last place (out of 30) record. Pinson appeared in all five of Brooklyn’s games, posting averages of 11.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks in 25.0 minutes per game. More importantly, he hit 43 percent of his 3-point attempts. That’s double what he hit last year at UNC.
As evidenced by his four-year career at North Carolina, Pinson clearly fits the profile of a Net on the court (we’ll get to off-the-court later): He’s 6’7” with a near 7’0” wingspan, noted for his leadership, high basketball I.Q. and the versatility he brings. He can play multiple positions — at least three, possibly even four.
Take a look at his highlights, which focus on his passing particularly in transition...
He delivered on defense too. Pinson, a key piece of the 2017 NCAA Champions, defended point guards and big men while being utilized anywhere on the floor by his legendary coach, Roy Williams.
Williams, whose 30 years as a head coach is split between Kansas and UNC, offered exuberantly high praise of Pinson during the ACC Tournament, where the new Net played some of his best basketball at Barclays Center no less. Perhaps his new contract with Brooklyn, which guarantees him at least $50,000 and preserves his G-League rights, was fate.
“I’ve said many times he’s a playmaker. In some ways he’s maybe as good a playmaker as anybody I’ve ever coached in 30 years as a head coach,” offered Williams after Pinson’s career-high 25 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals in a win over Miami at the ACC Quarterfinals on March 8. Beyond the big numbers, there was a signature dunk.
“Everybody wants to talk about the dunk, but I like the way he sort of read the defense. There’s a lot of guys on the street corner that can dunk, but to read the defense and see what they gave him there was sensational.”
In the ensuing ACC Semifinal match-up, Pinson cut back his scoring (eight points) but distributed seven assists and recorded three steals being utilized primarily to disrupt the Duke defense at the foul-line, where he’d receive the ball, turn, face, and create a play for UNC. The play would usually result in a hockey assist at the very least.
it was a typical game for the Greensboro, N.C. native. Pinson this year became the first Tarheel to ever average 10/5/5.
But his offense was only one part of his game. Leadership was another; so was defense. He guarded 6’11” Marvin Bagley III for much of the night, occasionally switching onto Grayson Allen or Trevon Duval, Duke’s shooting guard and point guard, respectively. Pinson didn’t take over as much as he made noteworthy plays during a critical stretch.
Take a look at the video...
4:30 – He sends a Duval shot away, but more importantly, he keeps the ball in play, igniting a fastbreak bucket for his team.
6:24 – Pinson runs the floor like a point guard and creates a wide open lay-up for Luke Maye.
9:50 – And of course, the game-sealing dunk with 11.1 seconds to go, sending UNC into the ACC Title Game, where they lost to Virginia.
Pinson memorably replied, ‘No, I feel great,’ when asked if he and the Tar Heels were tired after playing three games in three days following the upset of UNC’s arch rival Duke.
Like Caris LeVert before him, he brings four years of college experience ... and a history of foot injuries. one his freshman year, the other in his junior year. The second injury sidelined him at the beginning of the season, but he played 24 games and North Carolina won the national championship game with Pinson grabbing nine rebounds and scoring six points in the Finals win over Gonzaga. He also showed exemplary improvement over his four seasons at UNC.
After arriving on campus as ESPN’s 10th highest ranked recruit of 2014 – a class that also included Jahlil Okafor at the top prospect, D’Angelo Russell the 13th and Coney Island’s Isaiah Whitehead the 14th — Pinson saw limited playing time, averaging 2.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per contest.
By his sophomore season, his play elevated to a points/rebounds/assists per game line of 4.8/3.2/2.9, followed by 6.1/4.6/3.7 before posting 10.3/6.5/5.1 in 37 games as a senior, his only year as a starter.
Did his lack of a reliable 3-point shot keep Pinson from being highly regarded as a NBA prospects? He shot 25.7% for his career at UNC and no better than 29% as a sophomore.
In a video courtesy of UNC fan site “Heel Yeah!,” Pinson – who noted he played the 4 most of his senior year – discussed his game and how it translates into the NBA.
“Just being a hybrid, as far as, I can guard any position,” he said, asked what part of his game best suits the next level. “Being able to guard 1’s, 2’s and 2’s. If I get switched, I’m going to battle and do everything I can, and make the plays on the other end. I know how to play basketball the right way.”
Could he have come out earlier, declared himself for the Draft, maybe after the championship season?
“Wherever the chips lay,” Pinson said on Media Day last year. “I was unlucky by getting injuries; I hurt my foot multiple times. But at the same time, I’m blessed to be around these guys four years. And I’ve had unbelievable relationships with all of you guys.”
That’s who he is and it fits the Nets’ culture as demonstrated by his impact at Chapel Hill. You can feel it in his swooning near 10-minute Senior Day speech after his final home game on February 27.
It should be noted that many fans remained standing throughout the entirety of Pinson’s speech, which was by turn, gracious, memory-filled, tear-jerking and comedic. You should watch it. All of it. It’s great stuff.
Oh, and he’s also a motherdunker.
Yes, he’s dunked on his mom ... at least twice in recorded history. No really, watch...
So, he’s not all that serious, which is a good thing. See you in September, Theo.
- BROOKLYN NETS SIGN THEO PINSON - Brooklyn Nets