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Kyle Alexander: A First Round Pick?

Photo credit: Allie Suber/RTI

When Kyle Alexander first came to Tennessee, he was a tall, skinny prospect who was very raw on the court. Alexander had only played basketball for two whole years up in Milton, Ontario in Canada before signing with the Vols, and it showed. He had potential, but his first couple years on the roster had more mishaps than successes.

But Alexander continued to develop, add weight, and work on his game. And it’s paid off for him this season, as he’s become a pivotal part of the Vols’ success this year, possibly even becoming the MVP of the team. And now it appears that his growth has caught the attention of some top tier NBA scouts.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN released a mock draft not only for the upcoming 2018 draft, but also for the 2019 NBA Draft. And in it, he has Alexander being selected in the first round.

According to Givony, Alexander will be taken with the No. 29 overall pick in the draft by the Houston Rockets. And Givony loves what Alexander brings to the table.

“Alexander’s body has taken a while to fill out, and at 222 pounds he is still a ways away,” Givoy writes, “but the fact that he stands 6-11½, with a 7-5½ wingspan and a massive 9-2 standing reach obviously helps.”

Givony would go on to add that Alexander isn’t just tall and long, but he’s also “extremely mobile.” He praises Alexander’s movement on defense and how good he is at protecting the rim as well.

“For now, Alexander is an elite screen-setter, diver, offensive rebounder and finisher — all coveted traits in the NBA,” Givony says. “His defense is what will get him on the map, though. He shows terrific timing as a shot-blocker and gets out to hedge or switch screens on the perimeter.”

Alexander was already a decent defender when he arrived at Tennessee. That part of his game has grown over the last couple years and has become more nuanced. But where the big man from Ontario has really grown is on offense, and he’s shown dramatic improvements from his sophomore year to his junior year this season.

Alexander went from scoring 1.7 points per game as a freshman to 3.3 points per game as a sophomore to 5.6 points per game this season. But it’s not all about the points he’s scoring; Alexander is shooting better and getting more aggressive on both ends of the court. He’s shooting a ridiculous 72.5 percent from the floor this season and is making 69.2 percent of his free throws. His career averages from his first two seasons were just 45.6 percent on field goals and just 56.6 percent on free throws.

He’s also averaging career-highs in rebounds per game (5.4), blocks (1.8), and has more steals this season (14) than his first two seasons combined (11).

And he’s done all that while only averaging 20 minutes a game.

If Alexander continues to improve this season and makes a similar jump into his senior season next year, expect to see NBA scouts drooling over the potential he would bring to the NBA. Alexander is far from a high volume scorer, but his defense makes him stand out, and he does enough offensively to make him a viable option for an NBA team needing a rim protector.

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