On Wednesday afternoon, Tennessee point guard Jordan Bone announced on social media that he’s putting his name into consideration for the upcoming NBA Draft. The junior point guard has until June 10th to withdraw his name as an early entrant into the draft, but he seems intent on staying in the draft unless he doesn’t get the feedback that he wants.
I spoke with Sam Vecenie of The Athletic about Bone’s decision and what kind of NBA prospect the 6-foot-3, 180-pound point guard is. Vecenie covers college basketball and the NBA Draft for The Athletic, and he’s done his homework on Bone and the overall draft process.
According to Vecenie, this year’s draft process will be more complicated in the past, but it should be more helpful to prospects.
“There’s nothing to lose. (Bone) can return as a junior, and he’s keeping his options open by declaring,” Vecenie told me. “He did say he’s declaring with the intent to stay in, and this year is going to be very complicated in regard to that because players can now work with agents and theoretically hire them to handle their pre-draft process and help them through it.
“One portion of that is they can’t take benefits, though.”
If any player who returns to school rather than going through the draft is found to have received benefits from an agent they hire to help them through the process, they will be declared ineligible or have to deal with sanctions from the NCAA according to Vecenie’s understanding. As for how that will be enforced, he states that not many people involved are quite certain of that just yet.
“I’m not sure it’s 100 percent clear,” Vecenie added. “But at the end of the day, I think it’s a step in the right direction. These kids really need to have this direction in the process because it’s so convoluted and tricky to navigate.”
Bone will likely take advantage of all the opportunities afforded him during the process, and he said himself he will lean on those around him and exhaust all his options to make sure he’s making the right choice.
“I plan to make the most of this opportunity and use the experience and feedback to make the most informed decision possible about my basketball future,” Bone said in a video on Twitter on Wednesday. “I’m going to lean on my family as well as Coach Barnes and this staff here at Tennessee through these next steps.”
As for what Bone brings to the table as a player, Vecenie says his ability to create plays and connect on shots at any spot on the floor are what make him stand out.
“His greatest strength is the ability to make plays offensively,” Vecenie said of Bone. “I know that’s kind of a broad brush, but when he’s on his game, he is a genuine difference-maker. He’s a genuinely terrific distributor who can also knock down shots from all three levels.”
Bone finished this season with the third-most assists (215) in a single season in school history and had the best assist-to-turnover ratio (2.91) in a single season in UT history. He set career-highs in points per game (13.5), assists per game (5.8), overall shooting percentage (46.5 percent), and free throw percentage (83.5 percent).
As great as Bone is when he’s firing on all cylinders, though, his lack of consistent production is one of his biggest drawbacks according to Vecenie.
Earlier this season, Jerry Meyer of 247Sports called Jordan Bone a “first round pick” in terms of his ceiling. Vecenie isn’t ready to go that far, at least not where Bone stands right now.
“I definitely would not say he’s a first-round pick right now,” Vecenie stated. “I would say that his ceiling is very interesting because he is very athletic and he can knock down shots. He improved a lot as a decision-maker, facilitator, and distributor throughout the course of this season. I’m still pretty hesitant in regard to some of the inconsistencies that belies his game a bit too often, I would say.
“There are too many times where I feel he can just be invisible or, honestly, quite a few times where he is affecting the game in a negative way because of the way he does make decisions on the ball.”
Bone scored 18 or more points eight times this past season, including a career-high 27 points in the Vols’ 71-52 victory over Kentucky in Knoxville. But he had just as many games where he scored fewer than 10 points as well. Bone had three assist/point double-doubles this season and totaled seven or more assists 14 different times. He also had eight games where he had three or fewer assists.
That consistency and sometimes his inability to “make the right call within the flow of the offense” with regularity are the biggest setbacks in Bone’s game according to Vecenie.
“While he has improved…I do think that there are some deficiencies here that need to be worked on over the course of the pre-draft process and maybe over the course of potentially another season at Tennessee,” Vecenie said, “or, if he would so decide, things that would need to be worked on if he was to go through with this process and end up in the G League next year.”
Vecenie would go on to add that it wouldn’t shock him at all if Bone went through the draft, fought though the NBA’s G League, and ended up on an NBA roster next year. He believes Bone’s ceiling is that high right now.
Another thing that might help Bone is the lack of elite depth at the point guard position in this year’s draft class.
Vecenie says he would call this year’s point guard class “average” with Murray State’s Ja Morant and North Carolina’s Coby White as the headliners. In Vecenie’s latest updated Big Board of 2019 NBA prospects, he has Morant as the No. 2 prospect in this class, White as the No. 7 prospect, and Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland as the No. 6 prospect.
But aside from some of the top players, it’s not an overall especially deep point guard class.
“I think this class has exceeded expectations and could end up being more on the strong side by the end of it,” Vecenie stated, “but right now I feel more comfortable calling it average.”
When it’s all said and done, though, what does Vecenie think Bone should do? Should he keep his name in the draft, or should he return to Tennessee for another season?
Vecenie says that he knows Bone’s game pretty well, but he doesn’t know Bone as a person all that well, so he doesn’t want to assume what might be going through Bone’s mind in regards to the whole process. But he does think there’s plenty of room for growth in Bone’s game, and it’ll be interesting to see if he decides to make those improvements under Rick Barnes or while in the NBA G League.
“There is quite a bit of room for him to grow and quite a bit of room for him to improve still,” Vecenie said. “I don’t know that he would necessarily improve at Tennessee at a rate that would be greater than how he would improve in the G League next year.
“If he was to come back and was to improve some of the more questionable aspects of his game and made some of those explosive scoring performances a bit more regular, I think there is real room for growth for him as an NBA prospect.”