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Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht Lands as First-Round Pick in Recent Mock Draft

Dalton Knecht
Tennessee G Dalton Knecht. Photo via Tennessee Athletics

While Tennessee produced two first-round draft picks during the 2021 NBA Draft, the Vols didn’t have one in the 2022 and 2023 drafts.

The Vols did have a second-round draft pick in each of the last two years, though, with Kennedy Chandler going 38th overall in 2022 and Julian Phillips going 35th overall in 2023.

It looks as though Tennessee is set to get back in the first-round class this June.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo are high on Tennessee guard Dalton Knecht, slotting the Vols’ shooter to the Orlando Magic with the 18th overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.

ESPN did an NBA mock draft back in early January, before the start of SEC play. While Knecht was doing well in the non-conference slate and established himself as a scorer, the former Northern Colorado transfer has proven himself in SEC play following that initial mock draft, which is why his projection has risen eight spots over the last 50 days, give or take.

Knecht was previously slotted at the No. 24 overall pick in ESPN’s mock draft from Jan. 4, 2024.

In the time in between mock drafts, Knecht has been tremendous for Tennessee and is establishing himself as the favorite for SEC Player of the Year. Knecht has scored more than 22 points in nine of Tennessee’s 13 conference games so far and has more than 14 points in every SEC game but one this season. The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 20.0 points per game over the year, which is tied for the 27th most in college basketball this season. Knecht’s scoring average bumps up to 24.4 points per game in SEC play despite two recent games of just 14 and 17.

“He can get going (quickly),” head coach Rick Barnes said about Knecht’s scoring burst after 15 second-half points in a win over Missouri on Tuesday night. “I mean, that’s what he does.”

More from RTI: Tennessee Announces ‘Checker Game’ For Saturday’s Matchup Against Texas A&M

While Knecht has a natural shooting ability and prowess, perhaps from countless hours watching Kevin Durant while he was growing up, his year spent at Tennessee has and will make him a much more well-rounded player heading into the association.

Do they play defense in the NBA? No. Hardly at all. That is why Knecht’s improved defensive ability could be a standout factor compared to other players during the time of draft evaluations. Knecht already had the scoring mindset that it takes to succeed in today’s NBA but has the added advantage of being a more balanced defensive player after his time spent with Rick Barnes and the Tennessee coaching staff.

The 2024 NBA Draft will expand to a two-night event on June 26 and June 27 this summer from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

For ESPN’s full Feb. 20 NBA mock draft, click here.

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