We could probably form a consensus without too much controversy that DJ Funderburk is NC State’s best NBA prospect, as The League drafts on potential, and, at 6-10 with athleticism and a fabulous shooting stroke, Funderburk oozes with upside. But what if I said that Funderburk is the Pack’s best player? RIGHT NOW.
This isn’t just recency bias talking. Yes, Funderburk’s career highs of 18 points and nine rebounds in his last game were instrumental in the Pack’s comeback win over Pitt. However, positing that he’s the team’s best player after he stepped up in a game that saw the team’s only other big, Wyatt Walker, ejected, and their starting point guard, Markell Johnson, hurt, is more of an indication that Funderburk has arrived rather than a hot take. As the numbers below will show, he’s the team’s most efficient offensive player; he should see an increased workload—and more minutes—going forward.
Funderburk leads the team in four traditional stats: FG% (65.4), FT% (77.8), offensive rebounds per game (2.1), and blocks per game (1.1). It’s not surprising that your tallest player makes a high percentage of shots, grabs offensive rebounds, and swats shots. It is surprising that Funderburk is far and away the team’s best shooter at the charity stripe. And it’s not like his 65.4% success rate from the floor is all dunks. Nearly a third of his shots have come away from the rim, where he’s hitting 58.3% of his jumpers (second on the team) and 44.4% of his 3’s (third on the team). Please, shoot more.
His shooting touch is reminiscent of Omer Yurtseven, but Funderburk adds the ability to play defense and run the floor. I would argue that Funderburk’s ability to switch a screen and guard on the perimeter, or to hedge and get back, is the biggest reason for NC State’s improvement on defense this season. (There’s still a long way to go in this regard, but State’s gone from 109th to 70th in Kenpom’s defensive ranking.)
As BTP is inarguably the home of the intellectual Pack fan, you’ve probably all been patiently waiting for the fancy metrics. This is where Funderburk particularly excels. Let me count the ways: Funderburk leads the team in player efficiency rating (26.7), true shooting percentage (71.3), free-throw rate (.667), offensive rebound percentage (13.4), block percentage (6.5), win shares per 40 minutes (.276), and box plus/minus (9.9). You might convince me that Funderburk may not yet be the team’s most important player—we can probably agree that Markell Johnson or even Torin Dorn is that guy—but Funderburk has the best marks in the most important stats. Not bad for a guy who has played 16 games of major college basketball. And his importance is magnified by how thin State is at the post.
Given Funderburk’s inexperience, there is room for improvement on what has already been a fantastic start to his NC State career. And we may be seeing that improvement when it matters most—in league play—where Funderburk has actually improved upon his stellar player efficiency rating (PER) and shooting percentages. His 33.2 PER in league play would rank sixth nationally if he could maintain it for an entire season (and it would be second among P5 school players to Zion Williamson…pretty good company). His true shooting percentage (71.3) for the season is seventh nationally, and he’s upped that to a silly 78.5% in ACC games. That mark would lead the nation. He just misses the top 10 in win shares/40.
Funderburk also gives us a glimpse of what Kevin Keatts, who is already a winner, will accomplish as he upgrades the Pack roster’s talent level. Funderburk is the highest rated recruit on the team. Sacha Killeya-Jones and Jalen Lecque will add to the blue-chip talent next year, and Funderburk should be back to join them so long as the NBA isn’t noticing how good he already is. Let’s keep it our secret for at least another season.