James Michael McAdoo wasn't very good last season. It's OK to be up front about it. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 58 percent from the free throw line. He turned the ball over on 18.2 percent of his possessions. His offensive rating, 91.3, means he probably hurt his team offensively more than he helped.
Watching him play wasn't much fun either. McAdoo gobbled up 27.4 percent of his team's possessions last season, and all too often those possessions went like this: McAdoo catches the ball too far from the hoop. McAdoo turns, dribbles, hesitates, faces up -- any of the above, really, or some combination therein -- and shoots a 10- to 15-foot jump shot. Most of the time, it did not go in. It was rough.
To say McAdoo has improved this season doesn't take much of a leap. It's right there in his numbers: His offensive rating is 105.0; his true shooting is up from 47 percent to 50.3; his turnover rate is down to 11.1 percent. The only thing he isn't better at is free throw shooting, but the sum of his improvements is clear. He's guarding better too. It's a wholesale leap.
But maybe the most impressive thing about McAdoo's improvement is not the what but the how -- how he goes about his offense, how concise, decisive and direct he plays.
There is no better example than his work during Saturday's victory over Pittsburgh. McAdoo had his best game of the season: He was 11-of-18 from the field for 24 points and had 12 rebounds on 27 percent usage. But it wasn't because he started reliably knocking down those midrange jumpers. He made a couple early in the game, yes, but he also badly missed a baseline 10-footer in the second half that was like last season all over again.
Instead, the McAdoo on display Saturday was active and energetic, grabbing seven offensive rebounds, typically beating his defender to spots, establishing good post position and creating a handful of easy points from work done before the ball arrived. When he caught the ball away from the hoop, as he did several times in both halves, he made one quick move, got his shoulder by the defender and went straight to the rim. In the first half, he scored on a picture-perfect baseline drive. In the second half, he caught a post pick-and-roll on the left wing and went straight at the middle of the lane -- no hesitation, no fakes -- where he earned an easy 5-foot floater over the defense.
It was like watching an entirely different player. Last season, McAdoo operated under the impression that the way to score was to be better than defense after you catch the ball. This season -- Saturday especially -- he has begun to grasp just how important pre-touch offense is and how effective you can be when you implement it.
Monday night's trip to Florida State comes in the heart of Bubble Watch season, so much of the focus will revolve around the Seminoles' bubble odds. I'm sure UNC's Thursday matchup with Duke will receive some attention. But in the meantime, watch the matchup happening on the low block, as Okaro White and the rest of the FSU frontcourt will try to make the Tar Heels one-dimensional.