5 Best UNC Basketball Alumni in the NBA in 2024

As usual, a few Tar Heels are playing at a very high level in the NBA this season. Here are the top performers.
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4- Walker Kessler

Kessler was a five-star recruit in North Carolina in 2020. He was one of the most sought-after center prospects in the country. However, he seldom played in his freshman season on a stacked team. At the end of the season, Roy Williams left and Kessler transferred to Auburn.

This was probably the best decision the seven-footer could have made. He became one of the best defensive big men in the country in his only season in Auburn, averaging 4.6 blocks per game in 25.6 minutes. This catapulted him into the first round of the NBA Draft, where he was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 22nd overall pick and then was traded to the Utah Jazz.

Kessler has been one of the best young centers in the league ever since. He was a finalist for the Rookie of the Year last season and continues to be one of the best rim protectors in the league. His offensive game is still a work in progress but the future is very bright for the 22-year-old.

3- Harrison Barnes

The 31-year-old combo forward is the earliest-drafted Tar Heel in the NBA right now. A member of the 2012 draft class, the veteran has been one of the most reliable two-way forwards in the league for over a decade.

Barnes was a dominant scorer in North Carolina, averaging 16.4 points per game in his two seasons as a Tar Heel. Despite being drafted seventh overall, he never quite brought the same scoring punch to the league. But he adapted his game and became a very solid all-around player who can defend and shoot.

He was a major contributor to the Golden State Warriors’ first title in 2015. He was later replaced by Kevin Durant in the lineup, but he continued to be a high-level starter with the Dallas Mavericks and the Sacramento Kings for years to follow. He is still doing what he does best in Sacramento: hitting over 40% of his threes, defending the opponent’s best wing, and being a good veteran.