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North Carolina’s Nassir Little, potential lottery pick, declares for NBA draft

Washington v North Carolina

COLUMBUS, OHIO - MARCH 24: Nassir Little #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after dunking the ball against the Washington Huskies during their game in the Second Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 24, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Some scouting services ranked Nassir Little No. 2 (behind consensus No. 1 R.J. Barrett) in the 2018 recruiting class.

Little didn’t quite meeting those lofty expectations during his freshman season at North Carolina. But he’s still turning pro.

Little, via Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

“I am declaring for the 2019 draft with the intention to start my NBA career,” Little told ESPN. “I am going to work extremely hard throughout the pre-draft process and my entire career to continue to grow as a player and person. I feel like I have a very high ceiling as a player, and I plan to reach that ceiling through consistent hard work.”

Little looks like a mid-first-round pick. He’s a project with major upside and some ability to contribute immediately.

At 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Little is a combo forward. His explosive leaping ability off two feet and ability to play through contact make him a strong finisher at the rim. He runs the court hard in transition and crashes the offensive glass, providing more opportunities for those highly efficient conversions at the hoop.

He can defend multiple positions, and his versatility makes him a nice fit in the modern NBA. He can block shots and body up bigger opponents. But he must get far more attentive off the ball before spending too much time guarding perimeter players.

Little’s offensive feel remains poor. He doesn’t shoot, dribble or pass well enough. His decision-making isn’t great. He shot just 14-of-52 (27%) on 3-pointers this season, though 77% free-throw shooting offers hope for his shooting stroke.

If all his tools come together, Little could be an NBA star. But there’s a long way to go.