Two Vols Listed as First Round Picks in Mock Draft

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    Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

    Tennessee’s men’s basketball team is off to a great start this season, and a large part of that is because of their two best players playing at a high level. And NBA scouts and analysts have taken notice.

    Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report released his final 2019 NBA mock draft before the end of 2018 and the start of conference play for most schools in college basketball, and he included two Vols in the first round of his latest mock draft.

    Both senior forward Admiral Schofield and junior forward Grant Williams made it in late in Wasserman’s first round projections. Wasserman has Williams being drafted No. 21 overall by the Boston Celtics, and he has Schofield being selected with the 28th overall pick by the Brooklyn Nets.

    “Williams never popped as a prospect without positional height or athleticism,” Wasserman wrote of Grant Williams. “But he’s turned into a potential outlier given how strong the rest of his game has become. Averaging 19.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists, now seven of 17 from three, the 6’7″, 236-pound forward is remarkably well-rounded in terms of skill, feel for the game, and defensive IQ. One team is bound to look past his obvious limitations.”

    The reigning SEC Player of the Year is off to a very strong start to his junior campaign with the Vols. He’s averaging career-highs in every major statistical category this season through 11 games, and he’s been a force down low for Tennessee night in and night out. Not only is he averaging nearly a double-double a night and over four assists per game, but he’s shooting 56.3 percent from the floor and 79.3 percent from the free throw line. He’s also making threes at a better rate this season, hitting 41.2 percent of his shots from deep.

    Not only that, but Williams is starting to learn how to be physical while also cutting down on his fouls.

    Williams has fouled out of two games this season already, but ever since he fouled out against Gonzaga in early December, he’s been on a mission to be more careful but still play with intensity. And so far, he’s accomplished that goal. He’s averaging a career-low 2.8 fouls per game and has picked up four total fouls in the last two games.

    But Williams isn’t the only Vol enjoying a hot start to the season and catching the attention of NBA analysts.

    Admiral Schofield is building off a breakout junior season last year and is having a sensational start to his final year as a Vol. After scoring 20 or more points seven times in 35 games last season, Schofield has already eclipsed the 20-point mark five times in 11 games this season. He, just like Williams, is averaging a career-high in nearly every major statistical category right now.

    “Schofield has taken a significant leap forward, now averaging 18.4 points on  41.7 percent from three,” Wasserman wrote of Schofield. “He’ll draw looks for his massive 6’6″, 241-pound frame, shot-making versatility, and defensive potential.”

    Wasserman isn’t the only NBA analyst feeling Schofield, either.

    Sam Vecenie of The Athletic included Schofield in his NBA Draft “big board” right before Christmas. He listed the top 100 players on NBA draft boards, and he listed Schofield as the No. 22 prospect on the list. Grant Williams checked in at No. 31 on the board, which would put him right on the fringe of the first round.

    Vecenie added that he spoke with one team representative who had Schofield graded out as a mid-first round pick while another gave him a late-second grade. So it appears Schofield’s stock is a little more difficult to nail down, but he’s still on team’s draft boards regardless.

    Schofield put his name in for consideration for the 2018 NBA Draft and worked out with teams and scouts to get feedback on how to improve his game. He withdrew his name before the deadline for entries to be final, and he returned for his senior season with Tennessee. So far, it’s looking like he made the right decision, and his final year is helping bump up his draft stock significantly.

    Tennessee hasn’t had a player drafted into the NBA since Josh Richardson was taken with the 40th overall pick in the second round of the 2015 draft. The Vols haven’t had a player selected in the first round of the NBA Draft since Tobias Harris was drafted No. 19 overall in the 2011 draft.