The Tennessee Volunteers made school history with three players taken in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here’s why that’s Rick Barnes’s greatest accomplishment.
Rick Barnes has over 600 wins, has made a Final Four, coached two National Players of the Years and an eventual NBA MVP and champion, and taken two different teams to a No. 1 ranking and four different teams to the NCAA Tournament. But the 2019 NBA Draft was his most impressive accomplishment ever.
Tennessee basketball made history with three players taken in the draft. The Vols have not had that many players taken in one draft since 1950, when the draft was 12 rounds. So by any realistic standard, this is the greatest draft ever for the Vols.
Grant Williams went in the first round to the Boston Celtics, and Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone went in the second round to the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons respectively. But what’s most impressive is not that they were all drafted. It’s where they came from.
Barnes built his Vols the past two years around these three players, and all of them were three-star recruits. Williams is an undersized power forward. He was listed as 6’7″ in college but may be as short as 6’5″. Combine that with his three-star ranking, and players like him are never supposed to go in the NBA Draft, let alone in the first round.
Williams was taken specifically as a power forward. That’s only because of his understanding of positioning and using his width to control the paint. His free throw shooting and slight ability to stretch the floor add to that. But who developed all of that? Of course, it was Barnes.
Then you have Schofield. Again, like Williams, he’s an undersized player at 6’6″ 241 pounds. That size lends itself to being a power forward, but again, power forwards should be closer to 6’9″ in the NBA. So why did the Wizards take a chance on him?
Well, in four years Schofield developed from a power forward to a stretch three guy, who can play big and on the wing while also defending well. He matched his elite defense with becoming a deadly three-point shooter, going over 41 percent from beyond the arc this year. Again, it was Barnes who helped him develop his game the right way for the pros.
Finally, there’s Bone. Another three-star point guard, Bone actually flew under the radar because Barnes kept him in a specific system. But in reality, he was just a steal from the start, and his physical showings at the NBA Draft combine proved that. So when it comes to Bone, Barnes gets credit here for just noticing the talent in high school.
On top of that, though, he helped Bone develop his guard skills and also stretch the floor a bit with his shooting. By the time he was a sophomore, Bone was the glue for the team thanks to the way Barnes developed him.
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The greatest NBA Draft in Vols history happened with three guys who were completely unheralded coming out of high school. They just had to develop over a few years, and now they’re in the pros.
Simply put, Barnes helped two three-stars develop skills to make up for their lack of size and found a point guard with an NBA body to help fine-tune his skills. Getting all them to the pros is incredibly impressive. We should note that he also was the one to sign Kyle Alexander, a three-star big man from Canada who is currently getting looks from NBA teams.
When Barnes took over for Rocky Top in 2015, Schofield was already committed. A year later, following a losing season and with very little to sell, he took his chances on those unheralded three-stars in Williams and Bone. Those guys became the building blocks for turning Tennessee basketball around.
Getting all of these guys to the pros with the way today’s NBA is can’t be overstated as an accomplishment. Barnes just proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s the perfect coach to develop talent and get players ready to go to the next level if they stay with him for a few years. This is indeed his most impressive accomplishment.