It’s safe to say Tennessee basketball will have a first-round pick in the NBA Draft for the third time in four years under Rick Barnes this year. Kennedy Chandler is expected to continue that tradition. However, there’s still a question as to how good Chandler can be.
Well, CBS Sports projects Chandler to be a potential post-lottery all-star. UT hasn’t had a lottery pick since Marcus Haislip was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks way back in 2002, but they have had plenty of players since then see greater success than Haislip.
Chandler is not projected to be one of the top 14 picks in the draft, which is why he’s consider a potential post-lottery star. However, if he does emerge, he would continue a Tennessee basketball tradition that has truly emerged under Barnes. Here’s a bit of what was written about Chandler.
Do I wish Chandler were 4 inches taller? Sure. But, despite his 6-foot frame, I’m still a believer in his speed, ability to get where he wants to go and shot-making from the perimeter. And it’s not like small point guards don’t flourish in the NBA. Future Hall of Famer Chris Paul is only 6-0. NBA All-Star Fred VanVleet is 6-1. Jalen Brunson, who is about to sign a massive deal as a free agent, is 6-1. Those three players are similar in the sense that they were all — just like Chandler — great college point guards who ran winning teams and made shots consistently.
Averaging just under 14 points and five assists and just over two steals last year as a combo guard who split time with Zakai Zeigler, Chandler showed a ton of potential. Honestly, shooting 60.6 percent from the free throw line was his only drawback.
If he had been a reliable free throw shooter, Chandler would have been a complete player for the Vols last year. However, he shot 38.3 percent from the three-point line, so he’s capable of developing as a free throw shooter, which is really good for his potential.
Two very successful players in the pros the past 12 years were first round draft picks from Rocky Top who weren’t lottery picks. Tobias Harris was taken with the 19th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, and Grant Williams was taken with the 22nd pick of the 2019 NBA Draft.
Last year, Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson were both first-round picks who weren’t lottery selections, and Johnson is starting to show promise. C.J. Watson and Josh Richardson are two unheralded players who emerged as reliable pro players as well.
Simply put, Tennessee basketball has become a hotbed for overachievers at the next level, and Chandler could continue that by emerging into a star despite not being a lottery pick. Living up to first-round expectations is manageable, but there’s reason to expect better things from him.