Vols in the NBA Draft: Finding the Right Fit

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The NBA Draft is Thursday, and Kennedy Chandler finds himself in familiar territory for VFLs. In the latest mock drafts, Chandler’s most common landing spot is somewhere in the 20s:

Kennedy Chandler Mock Draft Projections

  • Yahoo: 20th, San Antonio
  • CBS: 22nd, Memphis
  • ESPN: 22nd, Memphis
  • SB Nation: 26th, Dallas
  • The Athletic: 27th, Miami
  • The Ringer: 27th, Miami
  • Bleacher Report: 29th, Memphis
  • USA Today: 38th, San Antonio (Round 2)
  • Sports Illustrated: 39th, Cleveland (Round 2)

A twentysomething pick would put him in the exact same range as the other three picks from the Rick Barnes era: Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer went 21st and 28th last year, and Grant Williams was 22nd in 2019. Throw in Tobias Harris at 19th in 2011, and it’s the approximate range for every Vol taken since Marcus Haislip went 13th in 2002.

Picks in the 20s can be a great friend to the viewer. These picks are slotted for playoff teams, looking for that extra push. For Chandler in this draft, Memphis, Dallas, and Miami are all teams who can talk themselves into the title conversation right away.

The Vols have just three Top 10 picks all time, and none since Dale Ellis in 1983. The program hasn’t necessarily produced guys with instant NBA expectations outside of Ellis, Bernard King (7th), and Allan Houston (11th). But the mid-to-late first round has been good to Tobias Harris and Grant Williams for sure.

It also became a building block for one-and-done players last year. Keon Johnson appeared in 37 games as a rookie, traded from the Clippers to Portland in the middle of the year. Jaden Springer saw action only twice, but a solid year in the G-League could push him back to an NBA roster with the Sixers in 2023. That route continues to provide a path for Barnes-era players like Admiral Schofield (38 games with Orlando this year).

As we’ve written about plenty over the last two months, it’s a gift to have one of your players land on a team that can compete for championships. Grant Williams went to a contender at 22 and found his way into the rotation for three playoff runs. Sometimes there’s also a space where a team is simply too good. Can Yves Pons play in the league? I think that answer can still be yes. Is he good enough to crack the Memphis rotation right now? So far, the answer is not yet.

For Kennedy Chandler, there could be immediate backup point guard opportunities on a playoff team, especially with the hometown Grizzlies picking at 22 and 29. Tennessee’s overall NBA pedigree continues to grow: if Chandler hits in the first round, he’ll be UT’s fourth selection there in the last four years. It took 35 years for the Vols to produce their four prior first round picks (Ellis, Houston, Haislip, Tobias). That’s pretty good progress.

And it’ll feel even better if Chandler lands on a team that gives us a chance to see him earn some playoff minutes.

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Sam Hensley
Sam Hensley
12 days ago

Man, would it be fun for KC to end up on my Grizzlies!