After a tremendous run during the SEC Tournament and the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Kennedy Chandler has been a name to watch on the NBA draft boards. The Tennessee freshman led the Vols in scoring (13.9 PPG), assists (4.7 APG), and steals (2.2 SPG) during a solid debut year in Knoxville.
With Chandler a longtime projection to the NBA after one year in college, the latest mock drafts are working to pinpoint the likeliest landing spot for him. Since the Vols’ loss to Michigan in Indianapolis, though, Chandler has not made any sort of acknowledgment of his plans for next year. However, even without a declaration, Chandler is still winding up on all of the mock drafts.
The Athletic released their latest mock draft over the weekend and tabbed Tennessee’s Chandler as a “substantial riser” thanks to his play at the end of the season.
In the mock draft, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie is projecting Kennedy Chandler to be taken with the No. 18 pick by the San Antonio Spurs via the Toronto Raptors.
“Chandler is another substantial riser up the board,” Vecenie said in his evaluation. “By the end of the season, he was one of the best point guards in college basketball, dictating the pace of play, using his speed not just to blow by the opposition but also to change gears more effectively. He also pressured hard at the point of attack, along with fellow guard Zakai Zeigler, forcing teams into difficult situations. Chandler won the MVP of the SEC tournament, and over his final 15 games, he averaged 15 points, five rebounds and two steals while shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3.”
Vecenie’s projection wasn’t without some reservations, though, as expected. However, he does mention something that Chandler and head coach Rick Barnes tirelessly worked on this year – his defense.
“I don’t totally trust the jumper, but there is enough of a chance that he can fix it given his improvement over the last portion of the season, and his defensive aggression gives him a shot despite being small,” Vecenie said.
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Standing at 6′ 0″ and weighing in at 171-pounds, Chandler was still second on the team in minutes played this year (30.8 MPG), even with freshman Zakai Zeigler making more of a push for strong minutes late in the year (22.1 MPG).
According to The Athletic’s mock draft, Kennedy Chandler is currently projected to be the fourth SEC player taken off the board. In front of Chandler are Auburn’s Jabari Smith at No. 1, LSU’s Tari Eason at No. 14, and Kentucky’s TyTy Washington at No. 15.
Many of the latest mock drafts all have Chandler around the same spot in the first round of the NBA Draft. Bleacher Report’s latest mock draft has Chandler going at No. 18 to the Minnesota Timberwolves, while Fansided’s latest mock has the Chicago Bulls taking Chandler with pick No. 19.
The spot in the first round is even true going back a few weeks, as well. In ESPN’s mock draft that was released on Mar. 21, Chandler was projected to go at No. 17 to the Indiana Pacers. Ironically enough, if that does happen, Chandler’s final game at Tennessee would have been in his new home NBA arena in Indianapolis.
If Chandler is selected in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft, he will be the Vols’ third first-round selection in the last two years. Former one-and-done players at Tennessee Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer were both taken in the first round of the 2021 Draft at No. 21 and No. 28 respectively.
In addition, if Tennessee guard Kennedy Chandler is drafted before the 19th pick in the first round, he will be the highest-drafted Volunteer player since Marcus Haislip was drafted at No. 13 in 2002.