Tennessee’s 2018-19 basketball season is still underway, but it’s becoming more and more evident that one of UT’s juniors is going to have a big decision to make once the season is over.
Junior forward Grant Williams is the reigning SEC Player of the Year, and he’s in the running to be a repeat winner this season, too. Williams currently leads the team in points per game, rebounds per game, and steals per game, and he’s second on the team in blocks per game and minutes per game. He also leads the SEC in points per game (19.0) and is sixth in rebounds a game (7.6).
The 6-foot-7 forward has impressed over the last two seasons, and he’s greatly improved his game in his third year with the Vols. That improvement and consistency has caught the attention of NBA scouts as well.
College basketball writer and NBA Draft analyst Kyle Boone of CBS Sports recently released his updated mock draft of the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft, and he has Williams as a first round selection.
According to Boone, Williams is good enough to be drafted late in the first round. He has the Boston Celtics using a late first-round selection on the versatile junior, selecting him 24th overall in the draft.
“The best player in the SEC doesn’t hail from Kentucky. No, the best player in the SEC (for the past two seasons) is Tennessee’s very own Grant Williams,” Boone writes. “Williams has taken a huge leap in his junior season to expand his perimeter game — shooting 34.4 from 3-point range compared to 12 percent last season — which might be the final step in his development. He’s still not taking a lot of outside shots, which in part could be because of the Vols’ offensive system, but his skills are enough to be worth a late-first flyer for Boston. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for in IQ and pure talent.”
Williams has employed a variety of new moves this season that has helped him be on pace for career-highs in a number of areas. He’s become adept at using a spin move in the paint to blow by defenders to get to the rim, and he’s developed a hook shot that he’s hitting with more consistency.
All of that has helped Williams enjoy an extremely productive and consistent junior season.
Williams has scored 20 or more points in 11 of the 27 games he’s played this season, and he’s totaled at least 15 points in all but six games for Tennessee this year. He’s posted a double-double in six different contests this season, bringing his career total to 11 double-doubles.
Not only that, but Williams is enjoying career-highs in shooting percentages across the board. Williams is making 56.9 percent of his overall shots this season, including 33.3 percent of his 33 three-pointers he’s attempted. He’s also making a career-high 82.9 percent of his free throws.
Williams could ultimately decide to return for his senior season after this year, but if he gets first round grades back for the NBA Draft this offseason, there’s a good chance he forgoes his final year with Tennessee and elects to go pro.
Tennessee hasn’t had a player drafted into the NBA since 2015 when Josh Richardson was selected with the 40th overall pick in the second round by the Miami Heat. The Vols haven’t had a player drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft since Tobias Harris was taken 19th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2011.
This year’s NBA Draft takes place on June 20th.